Singapore states intent to recover army vehicles held in HK

01-Dec-2016 Intellasia | CNA | 6:00 AM Print This Post

Singapore on Tuesday (November 29) stated its intention to recover military equipment stuck in Hong Kong, as the city-state’s defence and foreign ministers made their first public comments on the nine Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles (ICVs) that were detained last Wednesday.

The vehicles were being shipped back to Singapore from Taiwan after an overseas training exercise. Singapore’s Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) has said the shipment, handled by commercial contractor APL, was seized by Hong Kong customs over licensing issues. Speaking at a media briefing, minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen said officials from APL and Hong Kong customs were due to meet later on Tuesday. Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) personnel in Hong Kong are waiting on the outcome of the talks to decide on “an appropriate course of action”, he said.

“After this meeting, the reasons and legal basis for detention will be made clear. MINDEF and the Singapore government will then commence proceedings to recover assets. We aim to comply with all regulations and then exercise our full rights in recovering our assets,” said Dr Ng.


A day earlier (November 28) China had asked Singapore to strictly abide by the governing laws of Hong Kong, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997. Beijing had also made plain its opposition to countries with Chinese relations having military exchanges with Taiwan, a region it views as straying from the “One China” ideal.

But Singapore’s minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan on Tuesday said diplomatic ties with China, which officially began in 1990, would not be “hijacked” by the ongoing Terrex incident.

While he acknowledged the presence of “disagreements from time to time” and “differences in perspectives”, Dr Balakrishnan told a global forum that Singapore and China had gone through “thick and thin”.

“Surely in Chinese culture you appreciate this concept of loyalty to old friends,” he said.

Both Dr Balakrishnan and Dr Ng also moved to reiterate support for the one-China policy, with the latter noting Singapore’s role in hosting diplomatic events such as the 2015 meeting between China President Xi Jinping and then-Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou.


The two ministers similarly pointed out there was no secrecy around SAF’s overseas training exercises.

“You all know, and everyone including China knows, that we have had special arrangements with Taiwan for a long time,” said Dr Balakrishnan.

Said Dr Ng: “People know where we train… and any training matters between us and other countries are bilateral. SAF will continue to train overseas based on existing agreements between countries.”

He also said Singapore has been commercially shipping military equipment since it started overseas training stints, and without loss or detention.

It was a point echoed earlier in the day by Singapore’s Chief of Army, Major-General Melvyn Ong, who described commercial shipping as commonplace to many militaries due to its cost-effectiveness and efficiency.

MG Ong added the SAF has “a system in place” for commercial contractors.

“All are required to comply with stringent requirements to protect against tampering and theft,” he said. “They must also apply for all necessary permits and all regulatory requirements while travelling and at ports of call. The contractor has to be responsible for this.”

“The SAF also has strict measures when we transport ammunition or sensitive equipment – we don’t make transit stops, including not calling on undesirable or United Nations-embargoed ports,” said MG Ong. “For the items on board this particular cargo, there was no need.”


Category: Hong Kong

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