‘Terrex issue needs time to be resolved’

‘Terrex issue needs time to be resolved’
Armored troop carriers, belonging to Singapore, are detained at a cargo terminal in Hong Kong, China November 28, 2016.
PHOTO: Reuters

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.

Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan.Photo: Reuters

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.

Read also: 'No formal reasons' for seizure of SAF vehicles after 3rd meeting

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.

Read also: SAF vehicle seizure: Use of shipping lines by militaries the norm in peacetime, says Ng Eng Hen

This principle is well established under international law and also the law of Hong Kong, a Special Administrative Region of China, Dr Ng said.

Read also: Mindef made formal representation to Hong Kong for return of vehicles

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.

Read also: Terrex vehicles seized by Hong Kong moved indoors

Photo: MINDEF, The Straits Times, TNP Graphics

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, co-operate and prosper together," he said.



on SPH Brightcove

This article was first published on Jan 10, 2017.
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