SINGAPORE: The detention of Singapore's Terrex armoured vehicles by Hong Kong authorities was a low point in 2016 - but it does not pose an existential threat or even a potential threat as say, terrorism does today, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen on Friday (Dec 30).
As such, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) must not lose focus or allow the one issue to dominate all else, wrote Dr Ng in a Facebook post.
"Neither should Singaporeans allow this one incident to shake our confidence or weaken our solidarity," Dr Ng wrote. "We are a sovereign and independent country, and we will chart our own future."
The shipment of nine armoured military vehicles has been held in Hong Kong since they were seized at Kwai Chung Container Terminal in late November.
Dr Ng added the SAF "will learn from this episode and has already changed its practices to better protect our assets".
He also revealed that the Defence Ministry has been "working at all levels of Government these past two months to effect their return, quietly and out of the limelight where it is more effective".
Dr Ng said he would give more details on the Terrex incident when Parliament sits next. The next sitting is scheduled for Jan 9.
TIES WITH US, CHINA, INDIA 'FUNDAMENTALLY STRONG'
Apart from the Terrex incident, Dr Ng said that the year 2016 saw "significant achievements" that have strengthened Singapore's security.
"Over 50 years, we have built up strong partnerships across the world, and have achieved a high standing in the international community,” wrote the Defence Minister. “Our relations with countries like the US, China and India are fundamentally strong and healthy.”
Added Dr Ng: “We may not see eye to eye on every issue, but that is the norm of bilateral relations between any two independent and sovereign nations. More importantly, with these countries, both sides value the mutual benefits that arise from strong bilateral ties and want to enhance these ties, not make them worse.”
Dr Ng also mentioned the “strong and growing” defence ties with other countries through the Five-Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) and ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting (ADMM)-Plus, which comprises the ten ASEAN countries and eight non-ASEAN countries - Australia, China, India, Japan, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Russia and the United States.
“All in all, Singapore has been protected and Singaporeans kept safe,” Dr Ng said. “We enter 2017 with uncertainties about the global economy, international politics and regional security, and the ongoing threat of terrorism. But if we stay vigilant, united and support each other, we will draw strength and overcome all challenges that come our way.”