SINGAPORE - The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and the Government will start proceedings to recover the armoured vehicles seized in Hong Kong once the reasons for their detention are made clear, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen.
Speaking to reporters at Choa Chu Kang camp where he was briefed on a new military blimp, Dr Ng said officials from shipping firm APL will meet Hong Kong customs officials on Tuesday (Nov 29).
The nine Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles and other equipment were en route on an APL vessel from Taiwan to Singapore after a military exercise when they were seized last Wednesday (Nov 23) in Hong Kong.
Dr Ng said officials will monitor the meeting closely, and hopes the reasons and legal basis for the detention will be made clear there.
Officials will decide on the next steps based on its outcome, he added.
He also urged people not to speculate on reasons for the seizure.
"Until the facts are established, any speculation is premature, unwarranted and I think indeed unfair on the Hong Kong authorities or any other country. We should all wait for the facts," he said.
Dr Ng, who said the Terrex vehicles do not contain any controlled military items which require special permits, added that the Terrex has been transported by commercial carriers ever since it was introduced.
He said that Singapore has not suffered any loss or detention of equipment prior to this incident.
Using commercial carriers to transport military equipment is a norm for militaries of other countries, Dr Ng said. This is the most cost effective way to transport equipment, as only commercial carriers with their vast networks have the capability, he added.
On Monday, China has voiced unhappiness over the vehicle seizure incident and called on Singapore to adhere to the One China policy.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in Beijing that the Chinese government is opposed to countries with whom it has diplomatic ties to have any form of official exchanges with Taiwan. China regards Taiwan as a renegade province.
Dr Ng said that "Singapore fully respects and supports the One China policy", and will continue to act in a manner consistent with this policy.
He cited the positive role the Republic has played in improving cross-strait relations, citing two meetings between Taiwan and China that were hosted here - the 1993 meeting between China's envoy Wang Daohan and Taiwan's Koo Chen-fu, and the 2015 meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and then-Taiwanese leader Ma Ying-jeou.
Asked if this incident would affect Singapore's training arrangements overseas, Dr Ng said: "Our training overseas has never been secret, people know where we train openly. We adhere to the One China policy.
"Any training matters between us and other countries are bilateral," he added. "We should not unnecessarily, until the facts come out, muddle the picture and impute various motives. So let's wait for the facts."
He added that the SAF will continue to train overseas based on existing agreements between countries.