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Seized SAF vehicles: Beijing tells Singapore to adhere to One-China policy

BEIJING — China on Monday (Nov 28) called on Singapore to adhere to the one-China policy after the Republic’s armoured troop carriers were seized by Hong Kong customs en route back from Taiwan last week.

Seized SAF vehicles: Beijing tells Singapore to adhere to One-China policy

In this photo taken Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016, Nine eight-wheeled Singapore-made Terrex infantry carrier vehicles are detained at a container terminal in Hong Kong. Photo: AP

BEIJING — China on Monday (Nov 28) called on Singapore to adhere to the one-China policy after the Republic’s armoured troop carriers were seized by Hong Kong customs en route back from Taiwan last week.

“The Chinese government has always firmly opposed countries that have diplomatic ties with China to have any form of official exchanges with Taiwan, including military exchanges and cooperation,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regular media briefing.

“We asked that the Singapore government strictly abide by the One-China principle,” he added.

The seizure of nine Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles (ICVs) made headlines last Thursday after Hong Kong media broke the news.

“China has already made representations over this to the Singapore side,” said Mr Geng on Monday, without elaborating on how or when the complaint was made. 

China had also “demanded” that Singapore “strictly abide by the laws of Hong Kong Special Administration Region (SAR), and cooperate with the SAR government on all necessary follow-ups,” he added. 

The shipment, which also contained other unspecified equipment, was initially held at Hong Kong’s Kwai Chung Container Terminal but it was moved last Friday under police escort to Hong Kong Customs’ cargo examination compound at the River Trade Terminal.

This raised questions about whether they will be returned expeditiously, as Singapore has requested.

Singapore’s Ministry of Defence (Mindef) said last Friday that SAF contracted APL as the commercial shipping line to transport nine Terrex ICVs and associated equipment to Singapore. 

“The nine Terrex ICVs are training platforms with no ammunition or sensitive equipment on board,” the ministry said.

APL is a unit of shipping giant CMA CGM Group, which bought over homegrown company Neptune Orient Lines earlier this year. 

Mindef had said that during the transit through Hong Kong, “customs officials raised queries if the necessary permits and declarations by APL were in order and in the process detained the Terrex ICVs”. 

It said APL was required to adhere to all regulations, including declaring the equipment it transports in the ship’s cargo manifest and obtaining the permits needed to transit through ports. 

Mindef added that APL officials have assured the Singapore Armed Forces that they are working with Hong Kong authorities to resolve the issue.

A team from the SAF had also travelled to Hong Kong to “address the security of the equipment”, said Mindef.  

China had first waded into the fray on Friday, saying it had noticed the news reports of the seized carriers and was verifying them. 

But asked at a routine press briefing on Friday about whether Singapore had contacted Beijing on the issue and what would happen to the nine armoured vehicles next, Mr Geng sidestepped the questions.

Nevertheless, he added at the time: “All ships that enter Hong Kong should follow the laws of the Special Administrative Region. We oppose countries that have diplomatic relations with us to have any form of official exchanges with Taiwan, including defence cooperation.”

Singapore and Taiwan have a longstanding military relationship that began in the 1970s and involves Taiwan being used as grounds for training by Singaporean troops.

Beijing deems Taiwan a wayward province that is part of China to be taken back by force if necessary.

Singapore has in recent years explored closer military ties with China, conducting a joint exercise in 2014.

A commentary in nationalist state-owned tabloid Global Times newspaper on Monday warned that Singapore’s “hypocrisy” over its military relationship with Taiwan could harm its relations with China.

“It is no longer reasonable for Singapore to continue... any kind of military exchange with Taiwan,” said the commentary, written by someone identified only as Ai Jun, which is a homonym for “love the army”.

The incident with the armoured troop carriers “adds to the suspicion” that Singapore is working against the “one China” principle, said the commentary, which threatened punitive measures that would “profoundly impact Singapore’s economy”. AGENCIES

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