Singapore and the United States agreed for the latter to deploy a P-8 Poseidon spy plane in Singapore during December, as a response to the building tension in the South China Sea.
Ash Carter, the U.S. Defense Secretary and Ng Eng Hen, the Singapore Defense Minister, made a joint statement in which they applauded the deployment of the high-tech aircraft in Singapore from Dec. 7 to Dec. 14.
The strategic move takes place as tensions grow high in the South China Sea, where China constantly tries to gain a foothold. The move raised eyebrows in China, eliciting a sharp response from Hua Chuying, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman.
"[The U.S. military presence does] not conform to the common and long-term interests among the regional countries," Hua briefed reporters.
China has territorial claims that cover almost the entire South China Sea, one of the hotspots in international maritime trade, with over $5 trillion worth of goods passing through it yearly.
American P-8s already operate in the area from bases in Japan and the Philippines.
The common statement underlined that the deployment of the P-8 Poseidon surveillance aircraft aims to assist "greater interoperability" between regional armed forces, hinting that bilateral and multilateral exercises will follow. Also, the P-8 will be useful in Humanitarian and Disaster Relief missions.
The United States and Singapore are traditional defense allies, and the placing of the spy plane is part of the Defense Cooperation Agreement signed by Carter and Ng. Other areas where the two countries work together are fighting piracy and global terrorism.
Under Chinese supervision, artificial islands sprouted in the South China Sea's Spratly Islands, which caused Washington officials to publicly state their concerns.
U.S. President Barack Obama appealed to countries from the region to stop the development of the artificial islands and urged all involved to abstain from militarizing their claims. Obama pointed out that the United States will keep defending its freedom-of-navigation rights.
China replied by saying that all building efforts for both civilian and military facilities will keep going. The global superpower noted that the United States should stay out of the disputes over the South China Sea.
In November, a number of U.S. B-52 bombers flew close to China's artificial islands. Further back, in October, an U.S. guided missile destroyer sailed as close as 12 nautical miles to one of the artificial islands.