SINGAPORE: Singapore will exercise its “full rights” in recovering the armoured vehicles that were seized by Hong Kong customs authorities, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said on Tuesday (Nov 29).
Shipping contractor APL will meet Hong Kong authorities later on Tuesday to discuss the matter, Dr Ng said. The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) are closely monitoring the outcome of the meeting and will decide on “an appropriate course of action” afterwards, he said.
“After this meeting, the reasons and legal basis for detention will be made clear. We have to wait for the outcome of the meeting.
“MINDEF (Ministry of Defence) 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," Dr Ng said, speaking after a MINDEF event.
The nine SAF Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles (ICVs) have been impounded in Hong Kong since last Wednesday, when they were being shipped back to Singapore from Taiwan after being deployed in overseas training exercises.
"WE SHOULD NOT IMPUTE MOTIVES": NG
A Chinese spokesman on Monday stated China's opposition to countries having "any form of official exchanges with the Taiwan region, including military exchanges and cooperation".
Taiwan is viewed by China as a breakaway province outside of its one-China policy.
Dr Ng said that Singapore fully respects, supports and adheres to the one-China policy and will continue to do so.
He also pointed out that Singapore has played a positive role in improving cross-strait relations through hosting historic events like the 2015 meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and then-Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou.
Asked how Singapore would respond to China stating it would "make representations" over the issue, Dr Ng said this would be left to the Foreign Affairs Ministry and diplomatic channels to take up.
He added that SAF's overseas training exercises have "never been secret".
"People know where we train openly ... and any training matters between us and other countries are bilateral," said Dr Ng. "We should not, until the facts come out, muddle the picture and impute various motives."
"SAF will continue to train overseas based on existing agreements between countries."
He also reiterated points made by Chief of Army Major-General Melvyn Ong earlier in the day - that commercial shipping of military equipment is not new. "Singapore has been doing it ever since we've had overseas training, over many decades and thousands of ships. There has been no loss or detention."
The Terrex vehicles, in particular, have been transported by commercial means ever since their introduction into service, said Dr Ng.
"We should not speculate on why Hong Kong customs offloaded and detained SAF assets," he concluded. "Until the facts are established, any speculation is premature; unwarranted and unfair to Hong Kong authorities or any other country. We will wait for the facts."