After detaining 9 SAF Terrex vehicles for more than two months in Hong Kong, the shipment has arrived in Singapore today (Jan 30) at 2.40pm. According to the media statement by the Ministry of Defence (Mindef), the vehicles was sent to a SAF camp for inspection. As of the return, there is still no “official reason” given by China and Hong Kong even though Singapore once said that they will not accept the return if there is not one.
The 2-month long detention of the SAF military vehicles was a punishment by China to Singapore for conducting bilateral military exercises with Taiwan, which is technically still at war with China. China sent representatives to Singapore in November telling the Singapore government to respect the One-China policy.
China and Singapore’s diplomatic relations went downhill when Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong started telling China to give up its territorial claims on South China Sea. As the leader of ASEAN, Singapore wanted to use its position to negotiate with China on the behalf of ASEAN countries which have overlapping claims on the sea territory. However, Philippines and Malaysia backed out of Singapore’s offensive stance against China, and instead chosen to settle the matter with China bilaterally. During a high-level conference between China and ASEAN, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan was embarrassed in the meeting and walked out of the conference after fellow ASEAN members refused to support Singapore.
Singapore’s anti-China policies however are not endorsed by the United States. Neither ASEAN countries nor the US speak up on Singapore’s behalf during the detention of the SAF vehicles, and it appears the island was left on its own throughout the episode.
Singapore’s economy is currently the weakest among Asia, and various sectors which was heavily reliant on Chinese investments are taking hits as Singapore-China relations worsen. Among the worst-hit is the casino and property sector, which are sorely missing the influx of Chinese funds during the heydays in early 2000.