Singapore will not allow any single issue to hijack its longstanding, multifaceted relationship with China, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said yesterday.
He also said that Singapore’s training arrangements with Taiwan are long-running and not a secret, and that a large number of Singaporean men have trained there since 1975.
“Everyone, including China, knows that we’ve had special arrangements with Taiwan for a long time and what we are doing there is no longer a secret,” Dr Balakrishnan said at The Straits Times Global Outlook Forum when asked about the seizure of Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) armoured vehicles at a Hong Kong port last Wednesday.
He added that he had told his Chinese counterpart that Singapore values its longstanding relationships.
The nine Terrex vehicles and equipment that were seized had been used in an SAF military exercise in Taiwan and were on an APL ship taking them back to Singapore.
The ship was in transit in Hong Kong. Following the seizure, China asked Singapore on Monday to adhere to the “one China” policy.
Separately, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said yesterday that “Singapore fully respects and supports the ‘one China’ policy… We play a positive role in cross-strait relations, and we will continue to do so”.
Speaking at a visit to a military camp, Dr Ng said officials from shipping line APL met Hong Kong Customs officials yesterday.
Mindef officials will monitor the meeting closely, he said. He hoped it will clarify the reasons and legal basis for the detention. Mindef will decide on the appropriate course of action based on its outcome.
Asked if the incident would affect Singapore’s training arrangements overseas, Dr Ng said the SAF will continue to train abroad based on bilateral agreements.
“We adhere to the ‘one China’ policy. Any training matters between us and other countries are bilateral, and we should not unnecessarily, until the facts come out, muddle the picture and impute various motives.”