Is Singapore's U.S. F-35 jet purchase 'a deterrence message to China'?
On March 1, Ng Eng Hen, Singapore's Defence Minister announced the purchase of four F-35 fighter jets from the U.S. with an option of purchasing up to eight more. CNN quoted analysts as saying the decision "is indicative of growing concerns within Asia regarding China's regional ambitions," but other media outlets report that the Singaporean government has clarified the motivations behind the move.
A statement attributed to the Ministry of Defense states that "the acquisition of F-35 fighter jets by the Republic of Singapore air force is for Singapore's own defense and deterrence and not directed against, or to align itself with any particular country."
“I think this is like an overstatement, to say the least, from CNN here,” said Xu Qinduo, a senior fellow at the Pangoal Institution. “No one wants to be the enemy of China. No one wants to challenge China as a large country if they are smart and if they are wise.”
Xu said China and Singapore have enjoyed a strong relationship. “Singapore has been the largest source of foreign direct investment in China for five consecutive years. It is just senseless or there is no point for Singapore to somehow view China as a potential challenge or threat to their security. No, it's not that case,” he added.
Tai Wei Lim, a research fellow at the National University of Singapore's East Asian Institute, didn't specify whether the motivations behind the purchase are related to China. He emphasized that “Singapore's first line of defense has always been diplomacy” and the country “is known for its consistent diplomacy in making friends and ensuring peace in the region.”