US pitches arms sales at Asia’s biggest air show

February 7, 2018

U.S. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Tina Kaidanow speaks during an interview with the Associated Press at the Boeing booth during the Singapore Airshow on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018, in Singapore. (AP Photo/Yong Teck Lim)

SINGAPORE (AP) — The top U.S. diplomat overseeing arms sales said Wednesday she sees keen interest in American weaponry in Asia, where China’s military footprint and political influence are surging.

Ambassador Tina Kaidanow was leading a large U.S. delegation to the Singapore Air Show, the largest in the region, and urging Southeast Asian governments to purchase U.S.-made arms like the F-35 fighter jet.

Two F-35B fighter jets, belonging to the U.S. Marine Corps and made by Lockheed Martin, made their debut at the air show. The jets can take off from a short runway and land vertically.

“It’s been great, really great. A lot of interest in the region and in doing business here. We’ve seen a number of companies, small and large, and I want to encourage them both,” Kaidanow told The Associated Press.

Kaidanow said that apart from supporting American jobs, the U.S. intends to help its regional partners beef up their security.

The Trump administration in December outlined a new security strategy that emphasizes countering China’s rise and reinforcing the U.S. presence in the Indo-Pacific region, where Beijing and Washington accused each other of stoking a dangerous military buildup.

More than 170 American companies were exhibiting at the Singapore show, using close to a third of the exhibition space according to a release from the U.S. Embassy. The show features over a 1,000 participating companies from 48 countries.

Washington has been wooing countries like Vietnam, a former foe, with arms sales and transfers at a time when China has reinforced its territorial claims in the South China Sea with extensive construction projects on man-made islands.

Kaidanow said earlier she planned to meet with officials from Japan, Canada and several Southeast Asian countries to discuss arms purchases at the trade show. Southeast Asian countries should consider purchasing U.S. arms “not just as a matter of security but also regional balance,” she said.

Update hourly