An Australian Defence Force F-35 performs during the Australian International Airshow and Aerospace & Defence Exposition at the Avalon Airport, Melbourne, on Feb. 28, 2019. Photo: Xinhua
Singapore's decision to buy F-35 fighter jets from the US is unlikely aimed at China, and recent analyses by US media saying otherwise are ridiculous and wishful thinking, Chinese experts said.
The experts' remarks came after Singaporean Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen announced in early March that the country plans buy up to 12 F-35 warplanes, with US news outlet CNN saying the potential purchase could cause trepidation from China.
The CNN report said that Singapore's decision is indicative of growing concerns within Asia regarding China's "regional ambitions," and quoted analysts as saying that China should see the plan as evidence that there remains strong demand in the Asia-Pacific region for a US presence.
Zhu Feng, executive director of China Center for Collaborative Studies of the South China Sea at Nanjing University, told the Global Times on Friday that "The assertion by CNN is really ridiculous. For the most part, it is merely wishful thinking by US media."
Singapore has been importing advanced US fighter jets for 30 years, and this F-35 plan is just a continuation of its traditional "small but advanced" national defense strategy, Zhu said. "I do not think this is aimed at China."
Ng said in June 2018 that Singapore was looking to replace the aging F-16 fighter jets with not only the F-35, but also China's J-20 as options, Singapore-based newspaper the Straits Times reported then.
If Singapore's new fighter plan has any intention against China, why would it list the J-20 as an option? An anonymous Chinese military expert told the Global Times on Friday.
Even the CNN report admitted that Ng did not mention China when announcing the purchase plan. He only said the jets will contribute to Singapore's ability to safeguard its sovereignty and security.
If the deal goes through, Singapore will become the fourth US ally in the Pacific to own the F-35, joining Australia, Japan and South Korea, who had bought the stealth fighter earlier, CNN reported.
But it is absurd to say this is "a message to China," because the four countries' fighter jets were originally all US-made, as they are all core allies of the US in the Asia-Pacific region, the military expert said.
Japan, South Korea and Australia's older fighters were extremely outdated and they had to upgrade, and Singapore's plan is also a normal equipment replacement, the expert noted.
However, Chinese experts also warned that the unified deployment of the F-35 in US allies benefits US operations in the Asia-Pacific region, which could bring challenges to the air defense in the South China Sea.
The F-35 is constantly linked with the US military's information network, experts said, noting that even US allies do not participate in a battle, as long as their F-35s are in the air, they can share all kinds of information with the US.