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South China Sea Standoff
U.S. Sends Spy Plane to South China Sea

In a move that upset China, the United States has announced it will be deploying the Poseidon P-8 aircraft to Singapore to help with disaster relief and “maritime security efforts.” Reuters:

The United States has agreed with Singapore on a first deployment of the U.S. P8 Poseidon spy plane in Singapore this month, in a fresh response to China over its pursuit of territorial claims in the South China Sea.

China, which is at odds with Washington over the South China Sea, said on Tuesday the move was aimed at militarizing the region.

In a joint statement after a meeting in Washington on Monday, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Singapore Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen welcomed the inaugural deployment of the aircraft in Singapore from Dec. 7 to 14.

Since the United States conducted a freedom of navigation exercise in the South China Sea in October, high-level American officials have been in the region rather often. Some of that is routine. The ASEAN summit was in Kuala Lumpur and President Obama had already been planning to go. But many of the visits, particularly those by Secretary Carter, have been directly related to security in the South China Sea.

So far, fears that any escalation would provoke China into action appear to have been baseless. All Beijing has done is issue verbal rebukes. On the other hand, U.S. measures haven’t been especially intense. Sailing ships and flying planes in disputed territory sends a signal, but it doesn’t actually stop China from continuing to build infrastructure. For now, these moves go a long way toward reassuring our allies. But if Beijing continues to build anyway, pressure on the U.S. to do more will likely increase.

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