In the midst of mounting pressure from China about its military exchanges with Taiwan, 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.”

China in the meantime has made representation to Singapore over the seizure. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Monday (28 Nov) that Singapore should “strictly abide by the laws of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR), and cooperate with the SAR government on all necessary follow-ups.”

Adding: “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 in Beijing. We asked that the Singapore Government strictly abide by the one-China principle.”

Dr Ng said that various motives should not be imputed into the seizure of the armoured vehicles until the facts come out as they have a potential to muddle the picture.

“We should not speculate on why Hong Kong customs offloaded and detained SAF assets. 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.”

He too, like the Chief of Army, defended the decision to use a commercial shipping company to transport the military assets from Taiwan to Singapore. “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,” he said.

Singapore will exercise its “full rights” in recovering the nine SAF Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles (ICVs) which were impounded by the Hong Kong customs authorities last Wednesday, he promised. He said that the SAF was closely monitoring the meeting between APL and the Hong Kong authorities which is set to happen later today (29 Nov).

“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.”