Ignoring international law makes for a more dangerous world order
In November last year, the Hong Kong authorities seized nine armoured vehicles from Singapore, an incident that Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen described as a low point from the defence perspective (“Govt working at all levels to get Terrexes back; SAF will learn from this: Ng Eng Hen”; Dec 30, online).
The seizure signifies a threat to our national security, sovereignty and our stance on foreign policy. It was also a lesson on how any internal procedural gap can lead to international tension and conflict. Such occasions can be also be used by other states to further their domestic and foreign policy goals.
International relations can be a zero-sum game. One mistake may allow another party to attempt to influence one’s stance on foreign policy and national security. A wrong move by either party can destroy relations built over decades.
Beijing has urged “caution” in handling the seized military vehicles. Several diplomatic observers have attributed the tough response from Beijing as a warning to cut off military ties with Taiwan and adhering to the One China policy.
When dealing with a major power such as China, the need to protect one’s sovereignty and to prevent any deterioration of relations with China will likely come into conflict.
The ultimate goal for Singapore should be a balanced and neutral foreign policy. “Guan xi” (relations) is important in dealing with China.
That said, there remains a need for all nations to adhere to the international law. Ignoring or breaching international law will result in a more dangerous world order.