Photo of Tommy Koh from Straits Times

At the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) forum yesterday (Jan 23), Singapore’s ambassador-at-large Tommy Koh blamed United States for the detention of Singapore’s Terrex vehicles by China. The ruling-party elite said that Singapore is the collateral damage result from the worsening diplomacy between China and United States:

“The Republic’s foreign policy has been premised on cultivating close ties with other countries without aligning itself to any superpower, but it may become more difficult to do this as Sino-US relations are very likely to turn confrontational. All countries, including small nations such as Singapore, would be part of the collateral damage in such a scenario. It already has a repercussion on us. I think the detention of the nine Terrex vehicles in Hong Kong has to do with the increasingly acrimonious relations across the straits, and between Beijing and Washington.”

China however has earlier clarified that the detention of the Terrex vehicles is a result from Singapore not complying with the One-China policy, where no country is to make official military exchange with Taiwan. Technically, China and Taiwan is still at war although a truce has seen ceasefire since 1949. As such, China interprets Singapore’s military training with China as an act of aggression.

Since the detention of the Singapore Armed Force vehicles in November, the United States government neither speak up nor even mention a word. It appears US does not want to get into troubles that Singapore is leading it to.

Also at the forum was the dean of the government-owned S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Professor Joseph Liow, who supported the Singapore government for resisting China:

“Taking sides would result in a zero-sum game. If taking a stand is inevitable, Singapore would have to weigh national interest with Asean cohesion, and ensure that there would be no interference in domestic politics. If making a choice means making concessions … other states may read the wrong signals or draw the wrong conclusions from our actions — Singapore is a pushover.”