In a public statement by Singapore Defence Ministry, the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) said that it has “communicated its formal position” to the Government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) on the detention of its S$119 million worth of SAF Terrex vehicles. There is however no response to China’s request to comply with One-China policy by stopping military with Taiwan.
You may view MINDEF’s latest update here.
In Nov, China sent representatives to Singapore stating that the SAF vehicles were detained because Singapore is not complying with the One-China policy by continuing to conduct military exercises with Taiwan government. China Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said:
“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. We asked that the Singapore Government strictly abide by the one-China principle.”
After China declared their reason for detaining the vehicles, Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen angered China further by referring Taiwan as a “country” and insisting that Singapore will continue any existing bilateral agreements with other countries.
Since 1990s, Singapore has agreed to commit to the One-China policy which has a condition that there should be no official exchanges with Taiwan. The military training with Taiwan, termed the “Starlight Operation”, started in 1970s was however allowed as a concession given by China to former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who is a respected figure in China. The “concession” however expired following his death in March 2015.
Unlike his father, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong do not command similar respect, if any, from the Chinese government. The Singapore dictator repeatedly offended China, demanding that China gives up its territorial claims on the South China Sea, and talking down on China that it is no longer the “middle kingdom” country. While Lee Kuan Yew was not actively pro-China when he was alive, Lee Kuan Yew explicitly stated that he will not interfere in issues, especially foreign domestic disputes, that does not concern Singapore.
ASEAN allies of Singapore quickly distant away from Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s offensive stance, with Malaysia and Philippines openly disregarding Singapore’s resolution by declaring that they will settle territorial disputes bilaterally with China instead.
Till date, Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan has offered only lips services to China, claiming that China and Singapore are “very close friends” but refused to address issue of military training in Taiwan:
“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. And at the same time, you know full well where I stand, that I believe in One China and we will not deviate from that.”