WASHINGTON - The first of a new class of US coastal warships will be sent to Singapore next spring for a roughly 10-month deployment, the Navy said on Wednesday, spotlighting a move that may stir China's fears of US involvement in South China Sea disputes.

Deployment of the shallow-draft ship "Freedom" will help refine crew rotations, logistics and maintenance processes to maximize the class's value to US combat commanders, Rear Admiral Thomas Rowden, the Navy's director of surface warfare, told reporters.

"We'll be deploying the ship for about 10 months in the spring of next year" to Singapore, he said in a teleconference. "In the meantime, we're prepping her for success in the execution of that deployment."

Singapore is strategically located along the Strait of Malacca, the chief link between the Indian and Pacific Oceans through which flows about 40 percent of world trade.

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