For the third time, Singapore is still not willing to retrieve their 9 detained SAF vehicles – worth a total of S$119.43 million – without having a “formal reason” from China. According to an update by the Singapore Ministry of Defence today (Dec 6), the third meeting demanding for a “formal reason” ended up fruitless yet again:

“The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) was informed by APL that following their second meeting with the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department on 1 December from 10.30am to 4.30pm, a third meeting was conducted from 10am to 4pm today. We have not been provided formal reasons as yet for the detention of the Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles (ICV).”

On Nov 29, Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen has however defiantly responded that he will not retrieve the vehicles unless China gives him “formal reasons” and “legal basis” for the detention. It is unknown whether if the Singapore government is playing stupid or saving face by being stubbornly to close the case without the demand.

China’s Foreign Ministry, Geng Shuang, has earlier confirmed a day earlier on Nov 28 that he has given instructions to Hong Kong to return the vehicles back to Singapore but warned Singapore to respect the “One-China” policy by cutting official ties with Taiwan. Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan is however defiant and claimed that Singapore has always abide by the policy, but he went on to contradict himself saying that Singapore-Taiwan military exercise, Starlight, is not a secret.

Below is the timeline of the saga:
Aug 21 – Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong tell China to “respect the rule of law” and give up claims on South China Sea
Nov 22 – Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong hit at China saying they are not the “middle kingdom”
Nov 24 – 9 SAF vehicles detained at Hong Kong port
Nov 26 – China confirms detention saying that the shipper did not have the required permit, urged Singapore to “respect the rule of law”
Nov 26 – Hong Kong “port officers” complete “search for controlled items”
Nov 26 – First meeting between Singapore diplomats and China, vehicles re-locked and re-secured
Nov 28 – China Foreign Ministry Geng Shuang warn Singapore to abide “One-China” policy
Nov 29 – Singapore Foreign Minister VIvian Balakrishnan reacted to China’s warning, saying they are “close friends”
Nov 29 – Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said he will not collect back vehicles without “clear and legal reason” explanation from China
Nov 30 – Singapore Chief of Army said not his fault, blame commercial shipper for not producing required permits
Dec 1 – Second meeting for 6 hours from 10.30am to 4.30pm
Dec 7 – Third meeting for 6 hours from 10am to 4pm