Photo of Ng Eng Hen from Straits Times Mark Cheong

In yet seems like another embarrassing episode for Singapore, the China authorities are not issuing any “formal explanation” Singapore demanded and is still holding on to the 9 vehicles. It is understood that China have already given Singapore to go-ahead to collect the vehicles but the Singapore government is not taking them back until China “explain the legal basis for the detention”.

Singapore is saving its face by refusing to collect back the 9 latest model SAF armoured vehicles worth around S$20 million in total, and is relentlessly persistent in demanding for “an explanation” after two formal meetings in Hong Kong last week. However, the world’s second superpower is unlikely to accede to Singapore’s request.

Now in California, Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen today (Dec 4) attempted to soothe China by praising them as an “integral leader” in global trade. Speaking at the US defence forum attended by US Congress members, Minister Ng Eng Hen told US to allow China to grow their military presence in South East Asia:

“China is an integral leader of global systems of trade, finance and security. It is neither possible nor strategically necessary to contain the Asian giant’s rise. US presence in the Asia-Pacific region cannot be for the sole purpose of checking China’s ascent. It is clear that China needs the world as much as the world needs China, and I think this interdependence will grow, not diminish.”

It appears that the Singapore Defence Minister is pressured to speak fondly of China in the presence of US.