Saturday, 26 November 2016

SAF armoured vehicles seized at Hong Kong port; China voices unhappiness to Singapore over military ties with Taiwan

Nine vehicles bound for Singapore, after being deployed for training in Taiwan, held up at Hong Kong Customs for inspections
By Jermyn Chow, In Taipei and Joyce Lim, In Hong Kong, The Straits Times, 25 Nov 2016

Armoured vehicles belonging to the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), which were bound for Singapore after being used for overseas training, have been seized by Hong Kong Customs at a port in the city.

Nine vehicles were seized, Hong Kong media reported.

The military vehicles were reportedly being shipped from Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan to Singapore in 12 containers, but it is not known why the ship carrying the containers had stopped by Hong Kong.



Responding to media queries yesterday, Singapore's Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) said the Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles (ICVs) and associated equipment used by the SAF overseas were "delayed at Hong Kong's Kwai Chung Container Terminal, due to a request for routine inspections by the Hong Kong Customs authorities".



MINDEF did not say how many armoured vehicles were seized, but added that there was no ammunition on board.

"The Terrex ICVs were used by the Singapore Armed Forces in routine overseas training and shipped back via commercial means as with previous exercises," it said.

It added: "Singapore authorities are providing relevant assistance to the Hong Kong Customs and expect the shipment to return to Singapore expeditiously."



A spokesman for Hong Kong's Customs and Excise Department told The Straits Times that "suspected controlled items" were found on board the vessel during a search.

Under Hong Kong regulations, controlled items can include firearms and ammunition, medicine or radioactive substances.



Hong Kong TV footage and photographs in Hong Kong media showed nine vehicles covered with tarpaulin and parked at Kwai Chung terminal.

The Customs and Excise Department spokesman said the items had to be unloaded from the vessel as part of ongoing investigations.

"Customs officers will take appropriate follow-up actions on the items," she added.

She declined to say if the receiver of the items has been contacted or whether the sender or owner had applied for a valid licence for the controlled items.

Under Hong Kong regulations, a licence is not required for prohibited items which are transiting through Hong Kong and remain "at all times" on the transportation vessels.

But a valid export authorisation or proof of transshipment will still be required for certain items used in relation with nuclear, chemical and biological weapons in transit through Hong Kong, said the spokesman.

Anyone who flouts the law can be fined HK$500,000 (S$92,300) and jailed for two years.



The SAF conducts overseas training in a dozen or so countries, including the United States, Australia, Germany and India.

It usually hires commercial shippers to transport military equipment to and from Singapore.

The Terrex ICV, Singapore's latest armoured infantry vehicle, provides foot soldiers with added cover and speed in the battlefield.

The Singapore-made eight-wheelers also give soldiers updates of enemy and friendly troop positions in timings close to real time.





















































China airs views on seized armoured vehicles as SAF team reaches Hong Kong
By Chong Koh Ping, China Correspondent, Jermyn Chow, Taiwan Correspondent and Joyce Lim, Hong Kong Correspondent, The Straits Times, 26 Nov 2016

Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) officers have arrived in Hong Kong "to address the security" of nine Singapore-bound armoured vehicles seized by Hong Kong Customs at a port on Wednesday, which have since been moved to a storage space for further investigations.

This comes as China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said all personnel and goods entering Hong Kong should follow local laws, when asked if China is responsible for the seizure at a routine press briefing yesterday.

He reiterated that Beijing "firmly opposes any of the countries that have diplomatic ties with them (China) to have any form of official exchanges with Taiwan, including defence exchanges and cooperation".

The vehicles - identified by the SAF to be Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles - were being shipped from Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan to Singapore by Japanese-owned container shipping firm APL. They were intercepted during a routine inspection involving checks for explosives. It is not known why the ship had stopped by Hong Kong.

Asked if Singapore would have to contact Beijing for the release of the vehicles, Mr Geng said China is verifying details of the incident, and did not address what steps would follow.



The 12 containers used for the SAF vehicles and other equipment have been moved to a temporary Customs storage space in Tuen Mun for further investigations, a Customs and Excise Department spokesman told The Straits Times.

Yesterday, the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) said all commercial shippers used by the SAF have to follow strict requirements. "These requirements have worked well and there have been no incidents of losses, theft or tampering over the years," it said.

APL has "assured the SAF that they are working with Hong Kong authorities to resolve the issue", said MINDEF. APL was required to comply with all regulations, including declaring the transported equipment in the ship's cargo manifest and getting the necessary permits.

The cargo comprises nine Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles "with no ammunition or sensitive equipment on board", said MINDEF. The Singapore Consulate-General in Hong Kong is helping to resolve the issue.

Mr Song Zhongping, a military analyst for Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV, said that as Hong Kong does not conduct its own foreign and defence affairs, this issue would be handled by Beijing. "The Singapore Defence Ministry will have to explain why these vehicles went to Taiwan and what were they used for," he said.

South-east Asia expert Xu Liping of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said the vehicles will be released in due course, especially in the light of the Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC) meeting early next month. The JCBC is an annual high-level bilateral platform to discuss ways to deepen and broaden Singapore-China cooperation.

The SAF conducts overseas training in a dozen or so countries. In doing so, it hires commercial shippers to transport military equipment.

MINDEF said yesterday that the SAF "will review the circumstances of this incident and determine if added measures are required to prevent such occurrences".














 







SAF armoured vehicles seized in HK moved to secure site: MINDEF
By Joyce Lim, Hong Kong Correspondent, The Sunday Times, 27 Nov 2016

The Singapore Armed Forces vehicles seized by the Hong Kong customs have been moved to a secure area with access control, the Ministry of Defence said last night.

The nine vehicles and other equipment have been moved to the Hong Kong Customs depot at the River Trade Terminal, with the shipping containers that were opened for inspection resealed by the Hong Kong Customs, said MINDEF.

An SAF team had arrived in Hong Kong at 9pm last Friday and yesterday met representatives of APL, the shipping line involved.

MINDEF said the SAF team met the APL representatives "to assess the situation and to ensure that the nine Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles (ICV) and associated equipment are sited in secure premises".

Yesterday, a report claimed that the APL vessel carrying the SAF vehicles docked in Xiamen in mainland China prior to Hong Kong.

The report by Hong Kong's FactWire news agency said the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department was tipped off by its mainland counterparts about the nine SAF armoured vehicles, leading to their seizure in Hong Kong last Wednesday.

Neither China nor Hong Kong has confirmed the report.

Citing customs sources, the report said the city's customs authority was told that the vessel, APL Qatar, did not have "approval notice" for the military vehicles. It said the shipment was discovered to have contained "undeclared military materials" when it stopped over at Xiamen's Haitian Container Terminals after leaving Kaohsiung in south Taiwan.

It is not known why the Xiamen customs authorities did not seize the vehicles but chose to tip off their Hong Kong counterparts instead.

MINDEF did not comment on the FactWire report yesterday.

Hong Kong Customs did not respond to queries from The Sunday Times yesterday.

Last Friday, its spokesman had told The Straits Times it had intercepted 12 containers of "suspected controlled items" bound for Singapore during "a routine ship search". The vehicles were seized last Wednesday at the city's Kwai Chung Container Terminal.

MINDEF said earlier the cargo had "no ammunition or sensitive equipment on board".

The SAF conducts overseas training in a dozen or so territories. In doing so, it hires commercial shippers to transport military equipment to and from Singapore.





















SAF vehicle seizure: China voices unhappiness to Singapore

Beijing asks Republic to abide by Hong Kong laws and cooperate with the SAR govt on all follow-ups
By Chong Koh Ping, China Correspondent In Beijing, The Straits Times, 29 Nov 2016

China has made representations to Singapore voicing unhappiness over the seizure by the Hong Kong Customs authorities of Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) vehicles bound for the city state after a military exercise in Taiwan.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said yesterday that China has asked Singapore to "strictly abide by the laws of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR), and cooperate with the SAR government on all necessary follow-ups".

"The Chinese government has always firmly opposed countries that have diplomatic ties with China to have any form of official exchanges with Taiwan, including military exchanges and cooperation," he said at a regular media briefing.

"We asked that the Singapore Government strictly abide by the one-China principle," he added.

China's move came after Hong Kong Customs officials seized nine SAF armoured vehicles and related equipment on board a container ship belonging to shipping firm APL.

The SAF conducts overseas training in a dozen or so territories and hires commercial shippers to transport military equipment to and from Singapore.



A report by Hong Kong's FactWire news agency last Saturday claimed that the APL container ship had docked in Xiamen in mainland China before transiting in Hong Kong.

The report said the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department was tipped off by its mainland counterparts about the nine SAF armoured vehicles, leading to their seizure in Hong Kong last Wednesday. It is not known why the Xiamen Customs authorities did not seize the vehicles but chose to tip off their Hong Kong counterparts instead.

When asked by The Straits Times about the report at yesterday's media briefing, Mr Geng said he had no further information.

The Xiamen Customs department told The Straits Times it was not allowed to speak to foreign media, when asked whether the APL ship produced the necessary paperwork for the clearance of the nine military vehicles.

Analysts say Beijing's protest did not come as a surprise as the issue of defence cooperation between Singapore and Taiwan came to light.

"For Beijing not to state its position robustly would jeopardise its longstanding position on Taiwan, which it regards as a renegade province," Mr David Boey, who is a member of MINDEF's Advisory Council on Community Relations in Defence (Accord), told The Straits Times.

Given the recent unhappiness among certain quarters of Chinese society with Singapore recently, it is inevitable that Beijing has to openly chide Singapore for this, according to Jinan University South-east Asia expert Zhang Mingliang.

While this move is a warning directed at both Taipei and Singapore, cross-strait expert Wang Weinan of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences said this appears to be more targeted at Taipei.

"Under the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, cross-strait tensions have slowly heightened.


"This should ring an alarm bell for Taipei as it is yet another way for Beijing to constrain its international space," Dr Wang added.










Made-in-Singapore Terrex a key addition to SAF

By Jermyn Chow, Taiwan Correspondent, The Straits Times, 29 Nov 2016

Dubbed King of the Terrain, the Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicle is a key addition to the Singapore Armed Forces arsenal.

Designed and made in Singapore, the vehicle, which can carry 13 soldiers, is a milestone in the army's motorisation efforts. It takes foot soldiers away from being moved in lumbering, canvas-topped three-tonners, which are less mobile and still require troops to hotfoot it, sometimes for hours, to get to their destinations.

The eight-wheeler can roar across rugged terrain at a top speed of 105kmh and is also at home in water.


At the heart of the Terrex is its battlefield management system. It links ground troops to their commanders at headquarters and to the SAF's other fighting machines, such as Leopard tanks, artillery guns, Apache attack helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles.


The souped-up battlefield taxis also provide added firepower. Its remote-controlled machine guns can take down targets 800m away and spit out bullets at 350 rounds a minute.


This means troops can pinpoint and strike enemy locations with precision, and friendly forces would not come under fire, so the men are quicker to react compared with their counterparts in non-motorised infantry battalions.

All this mobility and precision firepower comes wrapped in a multi-layered armour that gives soldiers better protection from anti-tank weapons and enemy attacks.

Introduced in 2009, the vehicle is jointly developed by the army, defence company Singapore Technologies (ST) Kinetics and the Defence Science and Technology Agency.

Currently, Singapore is the only user of the 24-tonne Terrex.

Elsewhere, the vehicle has drawn interest from Australia, Britain, the United States and even Mexico.

ST Kinetics joined hands with a US-based partner to become one of two contenders shortlisted to provide the Terrex 2 to the US Marine Corps in November last year, beating industry heavyweights such as Lockheed Martin.

ST Engineering is now looking to build bigger variants of the Terrex vehicles in a bid to replace ageing armoured vehicles in the Australian and British armies.











'Not 1st time such an APL vessel had transited in HK'

By Joyce Lim, Hong Kong Correspondent, The Straits Times, 29 Nov 2016

All vessels must fully declare all cargo on board before docking at Hong Kong's port, according to the Hong Kong Customs authorities.

Generally, cargo in transit does not require an "import or export licence" as it will remain at all times on the ship. However, such a licence will be required for "certain type of strategic commodities", said a spokesman for the city's Customs and Excise Department.

So did APL, the container shipping firm contracted by the Singapore Armed Forces to transport nine armoured vehicles and military equipment back to Singapore from Taiwan, make a complete declaration of the sensitive cargo on board its vessel before it docked at Kwai Chung Container Terminals last Wednesday?

APL has declined comment as "the matter is pending discussion".



A report by Hong Kong's FactWire news agency claimed that APL did not have the "approval notice" for military vehicles.

Citing Customs sources, it said the shipment was first found not to possess the relevant permit at Xiamen's Haitian Container Terminals, where the vessel transited after leaving Kaohsiung in south Taiwan. The Xiamen Customs authorities also declined to comment when contacted.

The purported improper documentation apparently led to the seizure of nine Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles and associated equipment by Hong Kong Customs.

A retired captain who used to work for APL described the seizure as "a draconian move".

He told The Straits Times that it was not the first time an APL vessel carrying Singapore-bound military equipment had transited in Hong Kong.

"Hong Kong is quite strict when there's military equipment on board. It's not unusual for Customs officers to board the vessel to conduct interviews," he said.

"However, such cargo usually stays on board and is not forcibly discharged, like in the recent incident," he added, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

"With electronic submissions, any documentation lapse can be easily and quickly rectified. Moreover, APL has accumulated years of experience in transporting military equipment, including for the United States, not only Singapore."

The managing director of the Hong Kong Shipowners Association, Mr Arthur Bowring, told The Straits Times that this was not the first time that Hong Kong Customs had seized "sensitive items".


In 2010, it seized a disarmed K21 light tank and an armoured military carrier belonging to South Korea, apparently due to a missing Customs document. The vehicles were returned to South Korea through China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs two months later.



































 





Singapore won't let any one issue hijack ties with China: Vivian Balakrishnan
By Royston Sim, Assistant Political Editor and Lim Yan Liang, The Straits Times, 30 Nov 2016

Singapore will not allow any single issue to hijack its longstanding, multifaceted relationship with China, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said yesterday.

He also said that Singapore's training arrangements with Taiwan are long-running and not a secret, and that a large number of Singaporean men have trained there since 1975.

"Everyone, including China, knows that we've had special arrangements with Taiwan for a long time and what we are doing there is no longer a secret," Dr Balakrishnan said at The Straits Times Global Outlook Forum when asked about the seizure of Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) armoured vehicles at a Hong Kong port last Wednesday.

He added that he had told his Chinese counterpart that Singapore values its longstanding relationships.



The nine Terrex vehicles and equipment that were seized had been used in an SAF military exercise in Taiwan and were on an APL ship taking them back to Singapore.

The ship was in transit in Hong Kong. Following the seizure, China asked Singapore on Monday to adhere to the "one China" policy.

Separately, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said yesterday that "Singapore fully respects and supports the 'one China' policy... We play a positive role in cross-strait relations, and we will continue to do so".

Speaking at a visit to a military camp, Dr Ng said officials from shipping line APL met Hong Kong Customs officials yesterday.

MINDEF officials will monitor the meeting closely, he said. He hoped it will clarify the reasons and legal basis for the detention. MINDEF will decide on the appropriate course of action based on its outcome.

Asked if the incident would affect Singapore's training arrangements overseas, Dr Ng said the SAF will continue to train abroad based on bilateral agreements.

"We adhere to the 'one China' policy. Any training matters between us and other countries are bilateral, and we should not unnecessarily, until the facts come out, muddle the picture and impute various motives."










Use of shipping lines by militaries the norm in peacetime, says Ng Eng Hen
Singapore has preferred this for decades as it is the most cost-effective and efficient method of transport
By Royston Sim, Assistant Political Editor, The Straits Times, 30 Nov 2016

Singapore has used commercial shipping lines to transport military vehicles and equipment overseas for decades as that is the most cost-effective and efficient method, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen yesterday.

It is the norm for militaries to use commercial carriers to ship equipment or vehicles for peacetime training. Many defence companies also do it to deliver hardware to customers or for exhibition displays, he added.

"Only commercial carriers and their vast network of inter-connected ships and ports have the capability to transport heavy vehicles around the globe," Dr Ng told reporters during a visit to Choa Chu Kang military camp.

He was addressing the detention of nine Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) armoured vehicles in a Hong Kong port.

The Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles and other equipment were being taken on an APL vessel from Taiwan to Singapore after a military exercise, when they were seized last Wednesday.

Before the incident, the SAF has not "suffered any loss or detention of our equipment", Dr Ng said.

The SAF conducts overseas training in about a dozen territories abroad, including the US, Australia, New Zealand and Taiwan.

Asked if there were concerns of any sensitive information on the Terrex vehicles that might have been compromised, Dr Ng said the vehicles did not contain any controlled military items that would require a specialised and dedicated means of transport.



In a separate interview yesterday, Chief of Army Melvyn Ong also said the APL shipment did not have any sensitive equipment or ammunition - only combat vehicles, radios and small arms.

APL has shipped SAF military equipment since the 1990s, Major-General Ong added.

Dr Ng noted that many shipping lines carrying the military equipment of various countries call at the port of Hong Kong.

There was nothing unusual in APL using Hong Kong as a transit point, he said, adding: "The carriers that we had appointed before had used Hong Kong frequently without any incident."

When the SAF appoints shipping lines, they are given specifications of military equipment so they know what they are carrying. The contract terms also state clearly they have to comply with international and port of call regulations, Dr Ng said. "It is their core business to understand what the rules are, to apply for permits or to comply with the regulations of each individual port."

Last Saturday, a report by Hong Kong's FactWire news agency said the APL container ship had docked in Xiamen in mainland China before transiting in Hong Kong.

The report said the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department was tipped off by its mainland counterparts about the nine SAF armoured vehicles, leading to their seizure in Hong Kong. It also said APL did not have the "approval notice" for military vehicles.

Yesterday, Dr Ng said the Terrex vehicles were taken off the ship in Hong Kong after Hong Kong Customs officials "raised queries with regard to full compliance" by APL.

There should not be speculation on why the armoured vehicles were detained, he added.

"Until the facts are established, any speculation is premature, unwarranted and I think indeed unfair to the Hong Kong authorities or any other countries."





Seized SAF vehicles should be melted down, says Global Times
By Chong Koh Ping, China Correspondent In Beijing, The Straits Times, 30 Nov 2016

The nine Singapore Armed Forces armoured vehicles held in Hong Kong should be melted down, following the wishes of the Chinese people, the Global Times said in an editorial yesterday.

While most netizens agree with the newspaper's strident stance, some said it should stop slamming other countries. And more than a few pointed out it should not claim to represent the Chinese people.

The editorial, which appeared in the Chinese-language edition of Global Times, called for Singapore to do some self-reflection.

"Compared to the Singapore during Lee Kuan Yew's era, which took a balanced position, it has veered into an unconventional path," said the daily, which is linked to the Chinese Communist Party.

It said Singapore's "carelessness" in handling the armoured vehicles showed it does not take China's displeasure over its military training in Taiwan seriously. "Singapore's image in China is now so poor that the Chinese people feel that those armoured vehicles that 'came walking right into our trap' should be 'confiscated' and sent to the steel mills to be melted down."



The editorial came a day after a strongly worded commentary in its English-language edition accused Singapore of hypocrisy.

Some netizens blasted Singapore for being a "lapdog" of the United States and wanted it punished since it has "flouted the law".

Many gave alternative suggestions on what Beijing could do with the vehicles, including dismantling them or dumping them into the sea.

Yesterday's editorial also slammed Ambassador-at-large Bilahari Kausikan for his comments posted on Facebook, suggesting that he had made those "senseless" remarks to "scare" the Chinese government and the people.

Mr Kausikan said that as China has realised the Singapore Government cannot be intimidated, it is "trying to intimidate Singaporeans in order to get Singaporeans to pressure the Government".

Netizen xuehanbo said the incident signals the demise of Singapore. "Offending China means giving up the opportunity for growth... China is the real dragon, without the support of a rising Chinese dragon, will Singapore continue to be one of the four Asian tigers?" said the netizen, in a comment on microblogging site Weibo.










Seizure of SAF vehicles not a strategic issue, says Vivian
It's a 'footnote' on going by the law; Singapore, China know ties are 'longstanding, multifaceted, mutually beneficial'
By Lim Yan Liang, The Straits Times, 30 Nov 2016

In the broader context of ties between Singapore and China, last week's seizure of nine Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) armoured vehicles by the Customs authorities in Hong Kong was not an incident of strategic significance, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan has said.

Dr Balakrishnan, the keynote speaker at The Straits Times Global Outlook Forum yesterday, was responding to questions about recent frictions in the relationship between the two countries.

Touching on lessons learnt from the episode, Dr Balakrishnan said: "It will be a footnote on how to do things strictly, carefully and by the law. It's not a strategic incident; I don't lose any sleep over it."

He said officials on both sides understand that the relationship is "longstanding, multifaceted, mutually beneficial" and will not allow any single issue to hijack it.

"I wouldn't overreact to that... We expect commercial providers of services to strictly comply with the law, and we expect the law to take its course," he said at the forum at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.



The forum was organised by The Straits Times and presented by OCBC Premier Banking, with Mercedes-Benz as a partner.

Last Wednesday, Hong Kong Customs officials seized the SAF Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles and related equipment on board a container ship belonging to shipping firm APL.

The SAF vehicles were bound for Singapore after a military exercise in Taiwan.

The SAF conducts overseas training in a dozen or so territories and hires commercial shippers to transport military equipment.

On Monday, China said it made representations to Singapore voicing unhappiness over the incident. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said Singapore should "strictly abide by the 'one China' principle".

Dr Balakrishnan said Singapore has believed in the "one China" policy since establishing diplomatic ties with China over 25 years ago.

"If you are truly close, there will be, from time to time, things you disagree about," he said.

"Fortunately or unfortunately for Singapore, we are very consistent, very transparent, and we call a spade a spade. It doesn't mean we are shifting our position or deliberately meaning to poke people in the eye."

Replying to a question from the audience on how Singapore will respond to Beijing's call to adhere strictly to the "one China" policy, he said Singapore does not conduct foreign policy by reflex.

Singapore's training arrangements with Taiwan are long-running and not a secret, he said, pointing to the large number of Singaporean men who have trained there since 1975.

"You all know, and in fact everyone, including China, knows, that we've had special arrangements with Taiwan for a long time and what we are doing there is no longer a secret," he said.

It would be a "surprise" if China kept silent about this arrangement, he said, but added he has told his Chinese counterpart that Singapore values its longstanding relationships.

"One thing in Chinese culture is, you never forget your old friends: people who were there with you in the beginning, people who were there with you through thick and thin. And surely, in Chinese culture, you appreciate this concept of loyalty to old friends," he said.

"But at the same time, you know full well where I stand, that I believe in 'one China' and we will not deviate from that."

On an issue like the territorial disputes in the South China Sea, Singapore's own circumstances and history inform its position on the importance of freedom of navigation and overflight, sanctity of agreements and access to peaceful resolution of disputes, he said.











Training arrangement with Taiwan dates back to 1975
By Jermyn Chow, Taiwan Correspondent In Taipei, The Straits Times, 30 Nov 2016

The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) conducts overseas training not only in Taiwan but also in a dozen or so countries, including Australia, Brunei, Germany, India and the United States.

The training arrangement with Taiwan dates back to 1975 - following talks between then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and then Premier Chiang Ching-kuo - when both sides reached an agreement to allow SAF units to train in Taiwan, given Singapore's limited land and airspace.

Through a programme dubbed Starlight, SAF personnel are put through their paces in the south- western part of Taiwan every year. Unilateral drills include manoeuvre operations over vast distances and live-firing exercises.

When Singapore was going to establish formal diplomatic ties with China in 1990, Mr Lee had said that training in Taiwan would continue.

During a visit to Singapore in August that year, then Chinese Premier Li Peng said Beijing would not be "too disturbed" by the Republic's continued use of military training facilities in Taiwan after the establishment of Sino-Singapore ties.

Mr Li had said at a news conference: "We sympathise with Singapore's position and understand its need to build a strong defence force. On this matter, suitable arrangements will be made."



Over the years, little has been mentioned about SAF personnel training in Taiwan. Some exceptions were when a Super Puma crashed in 1994 and when three SAF personnel were killed after a Taiwanese F5-F jet crashed into a camp storeroom they were in.

While the South China Morning Post and Taipei Times, quoting sources and analysts, said Singapore had turned down China's offer to let the SAF train on Hainan island, Singapore's Defence Ministry has not confirmed or denied the reports.

Relations between China and Taiwan have turned frosty since pro-independence President Tsai Ing- wen and her Democratic Progressive Party won January's elections.

After she took office in May, Beijing said it had suspended official communications with Taipei. This was because Ms Tsai, in her inauguration speech, did not acknowledge the 1992 Consensus - a tacit agreement that there is only one China, with each side having its own interpretation of what it means.















Shining the spotlight on Starlight
By William Choong, Published The Straits Times, The Straits Times, 30 Nov 2016

When I was working for this newspaper in 2012, I spoke to Yang Yi, a retired Chinese rear admiral, about Singapore's military cooperation with the United States and its hosting of US navy ships at Changi Naval Base.

He said that Beijing was "very open" to the idea of Singapore's military cooperation with the US. "Such… arrangements are not born out of a Cold War mentality of focusing on a third party," said the then director of the Institute for Strategic Study at the People's Liberation Army National Defence University.

The admiral added that he "highly appreciated" Singapore's contribution and role, given that its influence was "much bigger than some other countries".

The same approach applied to Singapore's military training in Taiwan, which China considers a rump province. For years, Beijing adopted a studied silence to Project Starlight - which started in 1975 when Taiwan sought to develop ties with other countries after it lost its United Nations seat to China - so long as Singapore stressed its "one China" position.

What a difference four years has made.

Sino-Singapore relations hit a high point in November last year when the two countries announced an "All-Round Cooperative Partnership Progressing with the Times". Commemorating 25 years of diplomatic relations, both sides pledged 19 initiatives to deepen cooperation in areas such as finance, transport and communications, leadership and training.

Thereafter, the relationship has gone downhill, culminating in the recent seizure of nine Singapore Armed Forces Terrex infantry carrier vehicles in Hong Kong, followed by Beijing expressing its opposition to countries with any form of official exchanges with Taiwan.



The Terrex incident should be studied in broad context. For many years, Beijing watched Singapore's principled position on the South China Sea disputes carefully. While Singapore stated that it had no direct claim in the disputes, the Republic advocated that Asean play a role in resolving the disputes - a position different from that of Beijing, which prefers to resolve the disputes bilaterally.

In December last year, Singapore announced an enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement with the United States, which saw the deployment of US Navy P-8A Poseidon aircraft to Singapore. These aircraft could be sent on maritime surveillance patrols out to the South China Sea.

In June this year, Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan was visibly absent from a press conference in Kunming that was supposed to be held jointly by Asean and China, following a special meeting ahead of the 25th anniversary of dialogue partnership between the two parties. The Straits Times reported that Asean countries were fearful that China would turn the event into a public relations exercise for its own purposes vis-a-vis the South China Sea disputes.

In September, Singapore found itself in Beijing's cross-hairs again after the Global Times accused Singapore of attempting to table a South China Sea-related item at the 17th Non-Aligned Movement summit in Venezuela - an account disputed by Singapore.

On Oct 1, People's Liberation Army Major-General Jin Yinan reportedly told Chinese state radio that China should take retaliatory actions against Singapore for internationalising the South China Sea disputes. He accused Singapore of stirring up Sino-US tensions, and questioned the Republic's motives in hosting the Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual security summit.

The recent incidents raise the question of whether China is reconsidering its tacit acceptance of Singapore's military exercises in Taiwan. From a wider perspective, China is putting the spotlight on Singapore's oft-repeated position that Asia-Pacific countries need not "take sides" in the ensuing contest for influence between China and the US.

The Global Times, which is known for its hyper-nationalist stance, expressed it well. In an editorial published on Saturday, the paper wrote that while Singapore claimed not to take sides in the South China Sea disputes, its remarks about the issue are "far from neutral". Expressing a point of view similar to Maj-Gen Jin's, the paper said that Singapore's "measures to contain China are becoming obvious".

It is hard to conceive how Singapore can be interpreted as wanting to "contain" China, given the long-standing depth and breadth of ties between the two countries.

Today, Singapore is the largest foreign investor in China, and an enthusiastic supporter of both the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership trade partnership. (It also supports the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which includes the United States but not China).

An astute strategy of seeking to keep all major powers engaged in the regional balance of power cannot be mistaken for Cold War-era containment.

That said, Singapore and other countries such as Australia and Japan that express principled positions on the regional order and the South China Sea disputes would likely continue to find themselves inviting China's ire.

Such a position was clearly articulated by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who spoke about the importance of the rule of law in resolving territorial disputes, and US Secretary of Defence Ashton Carter, who advocated a principled security network in preserving shared values and burden-sharing among regional states.

While the disputes in the South China Sea do not by themselves define the regional order, one gets a pretty good idea of the future direction of the regional order by studying how China manages the disputes.

China has been cultivating Asean countries such as Cambodia, Malaysia and the Philippines. In exchange for Chinese trade, aid and investment, these countries can and have been persuaded to take less strident positions on the South China Sea disputes.

In a recent visit to Beijing, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was granted a red carpet welcome. A Chinese firm was granted a US$13 billion contract to build a 620km rail link to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia agreed to buy four Chinese naval vessels and both countries agreed to settle the South China dispute bilaterally.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has declared the Philippines' "separation" from the US and said that Beijing and Manila could "appropriately handle disputes". This was a rollback from the previous administration, which brought Manila's South China Sea dispute with China for international arbitration, angering the latter.

For decades, China welcomed Singapore's one-China policy and in turn tacitly accepted the Republic's military training in Taiwan. The recent Singapore-China spats raise the question of whether China is reconsidering its tacit acceptance. These have come after Singapore made known its position on the peaceful resolution of the South China Sea disputes in accordance with the principles of international law. China has maintained that the international tribunal had no jurisdiction to hear the case brought by Manila.

The message from China is clear: everything can be negotiated (including training in Taiwan) provided one sets aside principled positions on the South China Sea disputes. It is thus no wonder that Singapore's approach on the South China has put it in China's sights.

Addressing the Terrex issue at the ST Global Outlook Forum yesterday, Mr Balakrishnan said that Singapore would not allow any issue to hijack its long-standing relationship with China.

He added that Singapore's circumstances and history inform its position on the importance of navigation and overflight, and of international mechanisms to resolve disputes.

The question here, however, is whether Beijing would be placated.

One thing is for certain: the Terrex episode has underscored the fact that Singapore's approach to the regional order and the South China Sea disputes will come under increased scrutiny from China.

The writer, a former Straits Times journalist, is Shangri-La Dialogue senior fellow at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.





 



















Seizure of 9 SAF vehicles draws strong views from Singaporeans
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 1 Dec 2016

The seizure of nine Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) armoured vehicles and equipment by the Hong Kong Customs authorities has drawn the attention of Singaporeans on social media.

Most expressed the hope that the nine Terrex infantry carriers would be released soon.

But a small minority wants Singapore to relook its position on issues involving China, a call that drew strong responses from many who urged the Government to stand its ground.

The vehicles were on an APL ship bound for Singapore, after a military exercise in Taiwan, when they were seized during the vessel's transit in Hong Kong.

Observers said a key learning point from the incident should be that, when it comes to disputes with another country, Singaporeans must stand together in protecting the country's interests and sovereignty.

Many online stressed that Singapore - and its people - should not be seen as pushovers. Said Facebook user Robin Liu: "We have to be united as a nation, as a people, behind our government to let China know that we cannot be intimidated or bullied.

"We want to be friends with China, but it should be based on mutual respect and equal standing as sovereign nations dealing with each other, and not on a big brother to a younger brother footing."



The seizure has ignited much debate that became more intense after China expressed its unhappiness on Monday over the incident, and called on Singapore to adhere to the "one China" policy.

Opinions, however, span two extremes, defence analyst Bernard Loo noted.

Some want Hong Kong to return the vehicles with no fuss while others argue that Singapore should "acquiesce to everything China demands".

"Both are probably misguided at best," said Associate Professor Loo of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS).

He sees the situation playing out thus: "Yes, the vehicles were routed through Hong Kong. Yes, the Hong Kong port authorities have every right to inspect the cargo.

"But Singapore has the sovereign right to train wherever it is welcome, and training in Taiwan does not compromise our acceptance of the 'one China' policy."

Singapore, he added, is likely to stand firm on this.

The analysts also rejected calls for Singapore to adjust its positions on issues involving China, including an online petition - signed by 39 people in five days - that wants the Government to apologise to China.

Said Dr Alan Chong of RSIS: "You don't want to set a precedent where you openly cave in to another state's demands."

Friction is inevitable in international relations, he pointed out.

Observers also stressed that Singapore, as a small country, cannot be seen as weak.

Workers' Party MP Pritam Singh wrote on his Facebook page: "When Singapore is pushed around in the international realm, or belittled unceremoniously usually as a result of our size, our opponents do so with their interests in mind, and - for those with more nefarious intentions - to drive a wedge among Singaporeans."

The only thing Singapore and its people should take away from this episode, he added, is a stronger sense of nation and identity.

"For it is in our destiny as a small state that similar spats will inevitably come to the fore again... But (it) is far from inevitable that Singaporeans are destined to be divided."

Political observer Bilveer Singh of the National University of Singapore cites other differences that Singapore has had with big countries.

These include the Michael Fay caning incident with the United States in 1994, and then Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's 2004 trip to Taiwan that attracted Chinese opposition.

Singapore should also not change course at the request of Chinese leaders or opinion makers, he said.

"We are not a Chinese province and that must be made known clearly. This is not the Third China and, on these principles, we must never, ever compromise," he said.













































What's behind Singapore's latest run-ins with Beijing
In a nutshell, China has changed, and Singapore has to chart a course that protects its interests
By Han Fook Kwang, Editor At Large, The Sunday Times, 4 Dec 2016

Singapore-China relations appear to have taken a turn for the worse.

The recent seizure of nine Singapore Armed Forces armoured vehicles in Hong Kong is the latest in a series of incidents that have made many wonder what is happening between the two countries.

Why is it that what appeared to have been acceptable in the past is now viewed by one party in a different light?

In the case of the SAF carriers, they were in transit in Hong Kong en route to Singapore after their deployment in Taiwan where SAF troops hold regular exercises.

Singapore's military arrangement with Taiwan has been a longstanding practice, started in 1975 when it was building its armed forces from scratch and needed space not available in its own country for training purposes.


Chinese leaders might not have liked the arrangement but they did not make a public issue of it.

Indeed, it did not stop the two countries from establishing diplomatic relations in 1990.

Suddenly, Beijing now says it has a serious problem with it, going by what its spokesman was quoted as saying: "The Chinese government has always firmly opposed countries that have diplomatic ties with China to have any form of official exchanges with Taiwan, including military exchanges and cooperation."

When relations between two countries turn sour, the past can be recast and reinterpreted.

The same could be said about China's displeasure over Singapore's position on the South China Sea (SCS) issue.

Singapore has said that, as it is not a claimant country, it will not take sides in the dispute which involves several South-east Asian nations and China.

But it hopes the disagreements will be settled peacefully according to established principles: Adherence to international laws and the protection of freedom of navigation in the affected waters.




Singapore has stuck closely and consistently to these principles which China did not take issue with in the past.

In recent years, though, China has become more assertive, constructing various facilities on some of the disputed islands and refusing to take part or accept the verdict of an international tribunal which had ruled in favour of the Philippines' case.

It has also taken issue with Singapore, accusing it, through reports in the Chinese media, of instigating other Asean countries to take an unfriendly position regarding the SCS issue, a charge Singapore has vigorously denied.

Why is Singapore's consistent position on the SCS now viewed so antagonistically and provoking such a strong reaction from Beijing? The short answer: China has changed.

As Professor Wang Gungwu, a noted historian, observed last week at a forum, China today isn't the same country as the one which needed help from many countries, including Singapore, in the 1980s and 1990s to develop its economy.

"The China that needed our external help is no longer that way at all. China now is actually in the position of being looked to for help... and Singapore has to reassess its position not because of anything specific that Singapore has done or what the Chinese have done."

The change has been most pronounced in the economic sphere. China is now the largest trading partner of almost all the countries in the region, including Singapore, and is the largest source of tourism and investments.

This economic impact has been mainly positive, boosting growth and opportunities for many countries which have benefited from the vast and growing Chinese market.

But along with its economic strength has come political and military clout.

As its influence and ability to project its power increases, China is changing the geopolitical landscape.

The most significant impact of this will be in the shifting balance of power between China and the United States, but this re-balancing will take some time because America is a superpower and will not cede ground easily.

But smaller countries do not enjoy this advantage and will feel China's growing weight more dramatically, like small buoys in the sea buffeted by a supertanker passing by.

Because of its proximity, South-east Asia will be one of those most affected.

China's growing assertiveness in the South China Sea dispute is but one manifestation of this, and there will no doubt be many others.

In such a scenario, it would be unrealistic to expect a trouble-free time as countries in the region adjust to the new reality.

In fact, many South-east Asian states have already shifted their positions, the most dramatic being the Philippines led by newly elected President Rodrigo Duterte, who declared recently that his country had realigned with China and was moving away from the US.

There is bound to be friction and tension in the coming years as governments make adjustments to accommodate the new growing power.

Singapore's recent problems with China should be seen in this light - an inevitable clashing of gears as the many moving parts change direction and, sometimes, collide.

It would be highly unusual if there were no ups and downs as the balance of power shifts.

It is important, therefore, to take a longer-term view of the changing ties and chart a course that ensures Singapore's interests are protected in the foreseeable future.

This is especially pertinent as Singapore has many other interests and linkages with the rest of the world which it assiduously developed over the years.

These overlapping relationships have made the country what it is today - globally connected and relevant - and have been a large part of what made it successful.

It cannot suddenly change course without serious damage to its international standing.

But it also makes for a more challenging foreign policy because some of these countries have different and competing interests with China.

As the balance of power shifts, Singapore will have to make new calculations and adjustments.

It will require nimble and adroit leadership able to navigate the changing landscape.

But the people, too, need to understand the new realities and not become unduly flustered or, worse, panicked into submission at the slightest pressure.

They should know that how Singapore responds to Chinese action can have far-reaching consequences for itself and the region, and that it isn't just a simple matter of not displeasing China for the moment, whatever the costs.

Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan was right to point out that the relationship isn't defined by one single issue but is multifaceted.


Singaporeans need to have a deeper understanding of how the world is changing, how the changes affect the country, where their interests lie, and what it takes to do well in the new environment.

These are testing times; they are a foretaste of more to come.

The writer is also a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.










The Terrex fallacies

Speculation based on logical fallacies is fuelling paranoia on the Terrex issue, risking its unnecessary escalation.
By Angela Poh and Chang Jun Yan, Published The Straits Times, 6 Dec 2016

Nine Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Terrex infantry carrier vehicles, allegedly en route from Taiwan to Singapore, were seized in Hong Kong on Nov 23.

Responding to the vehicle seizure, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman emphasised that the laws of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region should be adhered to, and that countries which shared diplomatic relations with China should not be engaging in any form of official exchanges with Taiwan. Hawkish commentaries followed in the Chinese media, such as Global Times and Hong Kong's South China Morning Post, with sensationalised headlines framing the issue as one between China and Singapore, suggesting that Singapore needed to give up its military training in Taiwan or compromise its bilateral relations with China.

Within Singapore, there has also been a significant amount of speculation and sensational hypotheses surrounding the seizure of the Terrex vehicles, which may do more harm than good.

Three common logical flaws can be identified from many of these commentaries.

The first is fundamental attribution error. Hong Kong has yet to clarify the exact reasons and legal basis of its move. With the basis of seizure remaining ambiguous, one should not simply assume that such an action was a premeditated move by Beijing, ostensibly to threaten Singapore about conducting military training in Taiwan.

Hong Kong is, after all, one of the world's busiest ports, and this incident could very well have been caused by an administrative lapse, which is still being investigated. China has many tools in its foreign policy toolbox. Having Hong Kong impound SAF vehicles being carried by a commercial shipping firm cannot be the most effective measure - if it was indeed its intention to push Singapore around in the international realm, or even "drive a wedge among Singaporeans", as some online comments lay out.

Misinterpreting intent, Member of Parliament Pritam Singh further referred to the Terrex incident as an "ongoing diplomatic spat" between Singapore and China. And yet, contrary to the allegations of some analysts that Beijing "now has a serious problem" with the SAF's training in Taiwan, official responses from China and Singapore have been relatively muted. There have not been any open accusations by either party, leaders or otherwise, much less of the headline-grabbing variety that a diplomatic quarrel would necessitate.

The SAF's training in Taiwan is not a secret. Singapore's leaders had an agreement with their Chinese counterparts on the need for the SAF to continue with such training when the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1990. Both sides have accorded each other mutual respect on this issue, as would have been expected. Singapore has consistently abided by a "One China" policy and has kept its interactions with Taiwan low-profile and apolitical. Beijing has largely reciprocated with a delicate diplomatic dance by consistently reiterating its official stance on the one hand, while tacitly accepting that the SAF's training in Taiwan is out of necessity and not targeted against China. The statement by the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman can therefore be seen as pro forma and typical of any issued by China regarding Taiwan.




The second logical fallacy is an erroneous conflation of issues. For instance, Dr William Choong highlighted the other recent hiccups in the Sino-Singapore relationship, such as Singapore's recent fiasco with China's Global Times and the Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement established with the United States in December last year. He then arrived at the conclusion that "the Terrex episode has underscored the fact that Singapore's approach to the regional order and the South China Sea disputes will come under increased scrutiny from China".

In another recent commentary published by The Straits Times, the paper's editor at large Han Fook Kwang had similarly discussed this incident and the South China Sea issue in the same breath. There is no reason or evidence to assume that this Terrex episode is directly linked to Singapore's consistent position on the South China Sea, or its well-established defence cooperation with the US.

In any case, it is natural for bilateral relationships to witness ups and downs. The fact that "Sino-Singapore relations hit a high point in November last year", as noted by Dr Choong, only goes to show that despite the occasional disagreements, overall bilateral relations between both countries remain stable and broad-ranging.

Last but not least, analogies have been misused. In assuming China's involvement in the Terrex seizure, some analysts have recalled the 1994 Michael Fay caning incident and warned that Singapore should not succumb to pressure from China or any other bigger country. While Singapore should indeed stand firm as an independent and sovereign country, this Terrex episode draws no parallels with the Fay incident where the American teenager was sentenced to caning in Singapore for vandalism. The personal appeal for clemency by then United States President Bill Clinton, asking for a commuting of the caning sentence, was an act of intervention on a purely domestic matter decided by Singapore's judiciary.

In contrast, it is well within the rights of the Chinese government to call for a "One China" policy; of the Hong Kong authorities to inspect cargo entering its port; and of Singapore to establish training agreements overseas.

Diplomacy, the age-old art of "the management of international relations by negotiation" is another thing altogether, hardly the same as resisting interference with another country's domestic policies.

As some analysts have already pointed out, this is not the first time that an incident has drawn unnecessary attention to the SAF's training in Taiwan, and it will almost certainly not be the last.

When such events occur, unnecessary speculations by any party - including those on social media - can only exacerbate matters. On a broader level, this is symptomatic of the "fake news" problem, where facts, misinformation and speculation are weaved together and presented as truths. We have witnessed the dangers of the fake news phenomenon in other parts of the world, especially when it fuels domestic anger.

More narrowly conceived, speculation could very well end up tying the hands of policymakers and diplomats. This could perhaps be glimpsed from the indirect and belated responses by the political leaders and officials from both sides, who had presumably wanted to keep the Terrex affair at a lower profile, rather than unnecessarily escalating it.

There must indeed always be space to understand the imperatives of our foreign policy and, when necessary, even disagree with it.

Nonetheless, this is not the same as committing logical fallacies such as the misattribution of intent, conflation and flawed analogical reasoning. When left unchecked, such misguided assertions have the potential of fuelling domestic anger and unnecessarily escalating matters.

In recounting the words of our first Foreign Minister S. Rajaratnam, Ambassador-at-Large Bilahari Kausikan reminded Singaporeans that Singapore's foreign policy must be tempered by a "clinical realism".

Not jumping to conclusions about China's intent over this Terrex episode is not an example of "vague idealism", but one that is based on the premise that pessimism arising from unfounded speculations will ultimately only result in a self-fulfilling prophecy.


Angela Poh is a PhD candidate at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS). Chang Jun Yan is an associate research fellow at RSIS and a PhD student at the University of Queensland.




'No formal reasons' for seizure of SAF vehicles after 3rd meeting
By Linette Lai, The Straits Times, 7 Dec 2016

Shipping line APL has not received formal reasons for the seizure of nine Singapore infantry carrier vehicles, even after a third meeting between the company and the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department.

The armoured vehicles were detained on Nov 23.

In a statement sent out last night, the Defence Ministry (MINDEF) said APL met the Hong Kong authorities from 10am to 4pm yesterday.

The company had its second meeting with the Hong Kong department for six hours on Thursday.

Both parties first met on Nov 29.

"We have not been provided formal reasons as yet for the detention of the Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles," said MINDEF in its statement.

It added that it had advised APL officials to "continue to extend their full cooperation" to the Hong Kong Customs department, to expedite the return of the vehicles.



The nine Terrex vehicles and equipment that were seized had been used in a Singapore Armed Forces military exercise in Taiwan, and were on an APL ship taking them back to Singapore.

The ship was in transit in Hong Kong when the vehicles were detained.

Following this, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said Beijing is opposed to countries with which it has diplomatic ties having official exchanges with Taiwan, and asked Singapore to adhere to the "one China" policy.

Both Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen and Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan subsequently said Singapore fully believes in and respects this policy.

Dr Balakrishnan also said that Singapore's training arrangements with Taiwan are long-running and not a secret, with many Singaporean men having trained there since 1975.

The SAF conducts overseas training in a dozen or so territories, and hires commercial shipping lines to transport its military equipment. This is the norm for militaries during peacetime, Dr Ng said.















 































 















 






MINDEF made formal representation to HK for return of vehicles
By Lester Hio, The Straits Times, 24 Dec 2016

The Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) said yesterday that a formal representation was made to Hong Kong three weeks ago regarding the seizure of nine Singapore infantry carrier vehicles.

MINDEF is still waiting for the matter to be fully resolved.

"Over the past three weeks, the Singapore Government has communicated its formal position to the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) on the detention of SAF Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles and associated equipment by the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department," MINDEF said in a statement.

"We await a full resolution of this matter and return of our property by the Hong Kong SAR government."

The nine Terrex vehicles and equipment, which were used in a Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) military exercise in Taiwan, were detained in Hong Kong a month ago.



They were on the way back to Singapore on board a container ship that was in transit in Hong Kong. The vessel belongs to shipping company APL.

The South China Morning Post reported earlier this month that Hong Kong Customs impounded the shipment because APL failed to provide appropriate permits for the vehicles.

APL has since met Hong Kong Customs on three occasions between Nov 29 and Dec 6, but has yet to receive formal reasons for the seizure. Following the last meeting, the SAF said that it had advised APL officials to continue to cooperate fully with Hong Kong Customs, to hasten the return of the Terrex vehicles.

China's Foreign Ministry said on Nov 28 that it had made representations to Singapore over the vehicles' seizure, voicing unhappiness over the incident.










 





Terrex seizure: SAF will learn from incident, says Ng Eng Hen

By Adrian Lim, The Straits Times, 31 Dec 2016

The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) will learn from last month's seizure of nine armoured vehicles by the Hong Kong authorities and has already changed its practices to better protect Singapore's military assets, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said yesterday.

Meanwhile, all levels of the Government have been working hard over the past two months to get the Terrex vehicles returned to Singapore, "quietly and out of the limelight where it is more effective", he added in a Facebook post.

Dr Ng did not elaborate further, but said he would reveal more during the next Parliament sitting, which is scheduled for next month.




While describing the Terrex issue as a low point in 2016 "from the defence perspective", and one that upset many, Dr Ng called for Singaporeans to view it in its proper context, explaining that it "does not pose an existential threat or even a potential threat as, say, terrorism does today".

"And the SAF must not lose focus or allow that one issue to dominate all else. Neither should Singaporeans allow this one incident to shake our confidence or weaken our solidarity. We are a sovereign and independent country, and we will chart our own future," he said.

On Nov 23, Hong Kong Customs detained nine Terrex vehicles that were on board a container ship that was in transit in Hong Kong. They were being shipped to Singapore following an SAF military exercise in Taiwan. Hong Kong Customs had impounded the shipment because vessel owner APL had failed to provide appropriate permits for the vehicles, the South China Morning Post reported.

Summing up his thoughts on 2016, Dr Ng said there were significant achievements that have strengthened Singapore's security.

He said relations with countries such as the United States, China and India are "fundamentally strong and healthy", and defence ties with other nations are growing. Singapore also signed a landmark agreement with Australia to provide more space and time for the SAF to train, he added.





SAF armoured vehicles stored indoors: HK Customs

The Straits Times, 4 Jan 2017

HONG KONG • The nine Singapore armoured vehicles that have been detained in Hong Kong since November have been moved indoors, Hong Kong's Customs and Excise Department said yesterday, quashing speculation that the vehicles may have been returned.

A report by the Apple Daily newspaper on Monday said the vehicles, which it said had been kept at an open-air storage yard of a Customs storage facility in Tuen Mun, had "vanished" from the site that morning.

But the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department said in a statement to The Straits Times yesterday that the vehicles "are still kept at a storage place of Customs in Tuen Mun". "They have been stored indoors since Dec 6," it said in the statement.

"As the case is still under investigation, no further information is available," it added.



On Nov 23, the Hong Kong Customs detained the nine Terrex vehicles that were on board a container ship that was in transit in Hong Kong. They were being shipped to Singapore following a Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) military exercise in Taiwan.

Hong Kong Customs said it had impounded the shipment because the vessel owner APL had failed to provide the appropriate permits for the vehicles, the South China Morning Post reported.

Following the seizure, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said Beijing is opposed to countries with which it has diplomatic ties having official exchanges with Taiwan, and asked Singapore to adhere to the "one China" policy.

In response to a question by the Post yesterday, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Mr Geng Shuang, said the Hong Kong government is dealing with the matter in accordance with its laws and regulations.

Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said on Dec 30 the SAF will learn from the incident and has already changed its practices to better protect Singapore's military assets.

Dr Ng, writing in a Facebook post, added that all levels of the Singapore Government had been working hard over the past two months to get the Terrex vehicles returned to Singapore "quietly and out of the limelight where it is more effective".


The Ministry of Defence has made formal representations to Hong Kong over the matter.




Related
Shipment of SAF Terrex ICVs Used for Overseas Training Delayed at Hong Kong's Kwai Chung Container Terminal -24 Nov 2016
MINDEF Update on Delay in Shipment of the SAF's Terrex ICVs in Hong Kong -25 Nov 2016
MINDEF Update on Delay in Shipment of the SAF's Terrex ICVs -26 Nov 2016
Teachable moments from SAF Terrex ICVs seized in Hong Kong
Singapore’s hypocrisy exposed by seized military vehicles -Global Times
MINDEF Update on Meeting between APL and Hong Kong Customs -1 Dec 2016
MINDEF Update on Detention of SAF Terrex ICVs - 6 Dec 2016
MINDEF Update on Detention of SAF Terrex ICVs - 23 Dec 2016
Oral reply by Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen to Parliamentary Questions on the Detention of SAF Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles -9 Jan 2017
MFA Press Release: Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan's replies to Parliamentary Questions and Supplementary Questions, 9 Jan 2017






Parliament: Detention of Terrexes against international law, Singapore looks forward to their return, says Ng Eng Hen

Hong Kong to return 9 SAF Terrex vehicles to Singapore: Ministry of Foreign Affairs -24 Jan 2017




* Hong Kong authorities press charges against shipping company APL over Singapore Terrex vehicles transport: Xinhua
The Straits Times, 23 Mar 2017

HONG KONG - Hong Kong authorities have filed charges against shipping company APL and the captain of a container ship which transported Singapore military vehicles into the city in November 2016 without a required licence, Xinhua news agency reported on Thursday (March 23), citing a Customs official.

The violation had resulted in Singapore-made Terrex infantry carriers being seized and held in Hong Kong for over two months.

The vehicles were being shipped home after they had been used in a military exercise in Taiwan when the APL vessel transited in Hong Kong, where they were seized by Customs officials on Nov 23.



The charge was filed by Hong Kong Customs on Wednesday and will be brought to court on Friday, an information officer of Hong Kong Customs told Xinhua on Thursday.

The source said Hong Kong Customs has sufficient evidence to prove that there's a violation of the strategic trade control system.

Previous Hong Kong media reports said an investigation completed by the Customs and Excise Department in January found that the Singapore Government could not be held responsible for the breach as it was only the consignee of the military vehicles.

The department was said to have sought legal advice from the Department of Justice about the move to prosecute the shipping firm and its captain.

An APL spokesman told The Straits Times late on Wednesday that the company had not received any official summons and could not comment further.

















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