Singapore’s Minister for Defense Ng Eng Hen said Tuesday that Singapore will keep sending its troops on overseas training missions based on existing agreements and that it is no secret where they have been training.
Ng made the remarks after a shipment of nine armored vehicles aboard a ship originating in Kaohsiung and bound for Singapore that was transiting through Hong Kong was seized by Hong Kong customs on Nov. 23.
In Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan, customs officials said two shipments of Singapore military gear and vehicles were legally exported from two local wharfs Nov. 22. Both shipments were destined for Singapore, they added.
Singapore confirmed that the Terrex AV81 wheeled armored personnel carriers belonged to its military and were “used in overseas training,” but it did not confirm that the training mission took place in Taiwan.
Ng said that Singapore has always used commercial shipping to transport its non-sensitive military equipment for overseas training missions. This was the first time such equipment had been seized, he added.
To be cost effective, it is common for many countries to transport non-sensitive, unarmed military gear aboard commercial vessels, Ng said.
Although it is not a secret where Singapore has been training its armed forces, the minister called on people not to make groundless comments on the incident before more facts are known.
Singapore military’s overseas training programs are implemented based on its bilateral agreements with foreign parties, and such programs will be continued, he went on.
APL, the shipping line carrying the nine armored personnel carriers, was in talks with Hong Kong customs and Singapore’s military will get to the bottom of the incident before taking them back, Singapore officials said.
Hong Kong’s Customs and Excise Department has said it seized the containers holding the vehicles because it found “suspected controlled items” on board during a routine inspection.
Several Hong Kong media outlets have speculated that Beijing could be using the seizure to pressure Singapore into ending its military exchanges with Taiwan.
A day earlier, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Geng Shuang said China opposes any of its diplomatic allies engaging in military exchanges with Taiwan.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel