Foreign Affairs Minister: Terrex issue needs time to be resolved
Foreign Affairs Minister calls for patience over detainment of SAF vehicles in Hong Kong
Engaging in megaphone diplomacy is not the way, and there is no need to politicise the detention of Singapore's nine Terrex vehicles.
Instead, Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan urged Members of Parliament to be patient.
"Let's have some patience and give this matter time to resolve through an appropriate legal or judicial process," he told Parliament yesterday.
Dr Balakrishnan was responding to Chua Chu Kang MP Zaqy Mohamad's supplementary question on starting an open dialogue with the Chinese government on the seizure of the nine Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles (ICV) in November.
The vehicles were en route to Singapore after an exercise in Taiwan before being detained over licensing issues, as described by the Ministry of Defence.
Mr Zaqy was concerned about how the incident would affect Singapore's diplomatic relations with China.
Dr Balakrishnan said Singapore, as a small state, would encounter expectations from countries to act in line with their own national interest.
Of the realpolitik, he said: "It is important for us to conduct our foreign policy as a sovereign independent nation and not be seen as acting at the behest of any other country.
"This is essential for our international credibility, our standing, our relevance and our usefulness to our partners and friends."
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen told Parliament the detention of the nine Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Terrex ICVs in Hong Kong does not comply with international law.
He explained that the vehicles are the property of the Singapore Government and protected by international law. Under the principle of sovereign immunity, property belonging to a country cannot be seized or forfeited.
This principle is well established under international law and also the law of Hong Kong, a Special Administrative Region of China, Dr Ng said.
He cited a previous case in 2010, where South Korean military equipment - including personnel carriers and light tanks - was also seized by Hong Kong authorities. They were later returned.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had written to Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying requesting the immediate return of the SAF armoured vehicles, said Dr Ng.
The Hong Kong authorities have said the ongoing investigation will take some time to complete.
They will also handle the matter in accordance with their laws - a response Singapore welcomes, said Dr Ng.
"Adherence to the rule of law has been the fundamental basis for peace and stability for the last half century in Asia. It has enabled countries both large and small to build trust and confidence in one another, cooperate and prosper together," he said.
China urges Singapore to 'be cautious' in Terrex remarks
BEIJING China has called on Singapore to be cautious in its handling of the detention of the nine Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Terrex infantry carriers in Hong Kong, adding that the incident was being handled in accordance with the law, the South China Morning Post reported yesterday.
"I hope the relevant parties can be cautious in their remarks and actions," China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said at a ministry briefing.
"I want to stress that China hopes other nations, including Singapore, follow the 'one China' principle," he was quoted as saying.
"This is the foundation for bilateral ties between China and any other nation. I hope the relevant parties can follow the laws of Hong Kong, China," he added.
The comments came after Singapore's Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen yesterday said the detention of the vehicles did not comply with international law.
He added that Singapore looks forward to the armoured vehicles being returned.
The SAF Terrex vehicles that were detained in Hong Kong last November are still being held by the city's customs officials. - THE STRAITS TIMES