The Global Times, an online publication of the Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, has in an editorial said that the armoured vehicles impounded by the Hong Kong customs authorities should be ‘melted down’. China had earlier rebuked Singapore for maintaining military exchanges with Taiwan which it considers a renegade province.
The Global Times editorial had harsh words about Singapore’s “carelessness” about shipping the armoured vehicles via Hong Kong, saying it reflected the Republic’s failure to take China’s displeasure over its military relationship with Taiwan seriously.
“Singapore’s image in China is now so rotten that ordinary Chinese people think the best thing to do with the ‘confiscated’ armoured vehicles that ‘walked right into our trap’ is to send them to the steel mills to be melted down,” it said.
Adding, “all incidents have causes — to grasp and understand them is always wise,” it implored Singapore to use this “interlude” in its relations with China to find “enlightenment” rather than to provoke more resentment.
In the midst of such mounting pressures from China, Singapore’s Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen has emphasised that Singapore will continue to train overseas.
He said that Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) overseas training exercises have “never been secret”, and that “people know where we train openly.” He added, “any training matters between us and other countries are bilateral” and that “SAF will continue to train overseas based on existing agreements between countries.”
The Global Times had earlier described Singapore’s continued use of Taiwan’s military base as ‘hypocrisy’. It said:
“In 2012, Singapore claimed it would suspend bilateral military cooperation with the island. However the recently detained vessel with its cargo of armored vehicles reveals Singapore’s hypocrisy.
For quite some time, Singapore has been pretending to seek a balance between China and the US, yet has been taking Washington’s side in reality. Singapore was never a military ally of the US, but has given the green light to US military forces’ long-term presence at its Changi Naval Base as well as allowing US Navy Boeing P-8A Poseidon aircraft to operate out of its airbases. This has turned Singapore into a platform for Washington to contain and deter Beijing. Singapore claimed it was not picking sides in the South China Sea disputes, but its remarks about the issue are far from neutral; instead, it has actually complicated and expanded the scale of the case.”
The Far Eastern Economic Review (FEER) reported in the year 2004 that, China has never been happy with aspects of Singapore’s relations with Taiwan.
“<…> but Beijing hasn’t allowed that to stand in the way of warm ties with predominantly Chinese Singapore. The island republic has made amends, in Beijing’s eyes, by adopting a “one-China” policy and vigorously opposing Taiwan independence. Singapore’s leaders have also offered their expertise to help China develop, notably with a government-sponsored industrial park in the eastern Chinese city of Suzhou.
Beijing’s main objection, rarely voiced publicly, is that Singapore’s armed forces train in Taiwan. It is an open secret, though never acknowledged by the Singapore government, that its military has used Taiwan since the 1970s for large combined-arms exercises. Singapore lacks the open space for military manoeuvres, and regards the use of Taiwan as vital for national security. Singapore pays Taipei for the use of its facilities, but does not train with the Taiwan military.
Beijing has offered Singapore the use of Hainan Island in southern China as an alternative training site, but the Singaporeans don’t take the offer seriously. They say privately that their non-Chinese neighbours often suspect that Singapore is fronting for China, and to switch military training to the People’s Republic would tend to confirm those fears.”