Now, unless you’ve been hiding under a hole, you would know that nine armoured vehicles belonging to the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) were seized by the Hong Kong SAR port authorities earlier this week. The vehicles were apparently en route to Singapore from Taiwan, presumably after being deployed for training by SAF troops in Taiwan.
Right now, the details are still rather murky. But chances are, the incident happened due to a bureaucrat cock-up by the shipping line contracted by the SAF.
After all, we have good ties with both China and Taiwan. We have always firmly upheld the One China Policy. And we were asked by both sides to facilitate the meeting between PRC President Xi Jinping and Taiwan President Ma Ying-Jeou (aka the Xi-Ma summit) in October 2015, just slightly more than a year ago.
Is SAF’s training in Taiwan an issue?
I hope not. We’ve had this arrangement for decades. Mr Lee Kuan Yew worked out the details with Taiwan back in the 1970s, when we needed the land for training and few countries were willing to let us use their land. Deng Xiaoping had no issue with it. His successor, Jiang Zemin, and Jiang’s successor Hu Jingtao, also had no issues with our training in Taiwan. In fact, it’s stated in the MOU that we signed with PRC when we established diplomatic relations with China.
Or perhaps China wanted to take a closer look at our military technology?
Wait, what if it is something deeper, and far more sinister? Apparently, Hong Kong acted after a “tipoff” from PRC. What if larger geopolitical forces are at play? What if the dragon is flexing its muscles, and expecting everyone in the region to tip toe around it?
We ought to be very worried, if that’s the case. In fact, the rest of the region needs to sit up. Cause it would mean that:
- China exerting pressure on Hong Kong
If Hong Kong authorities are acting on Beijing’s instructions, then I guess this is the final nail in the coffin for Hong Kong’s status as a free port. Coupled with the debacle over the swearing in of two Hong Kong lawmakers, perhaps China is inching towards One Country, One System?
- China showing Taiwan the finger
Well, Tsai Ing Wen’s presidency was always going to be problematic for cross-straits relations. So by detaining SAF exercise vehicles that came from Taiwan, China could well be sending a message to Tsai and her pan-Green government.
- China tightening the noose around Singapore
It is no secret that China isn’t unhappy with Singapore’s stance on the South China Sea, and wants us to move closer into their orbit. After all, the dragon sees South East Asia as its own backyard. Good strategic move by them actually, since a Trump-presidency is likely to take a more isolationist approach when it comes to foreign relations.
All these are speculations but at the end of the day China is just being China – an upcoming super power
Question is – if we are to bow down to the dragon, compromise our integrity and sovereignty, then we might as well become China’s Nanyang Special Administrative Region (SAR).
We must understand that Singapore’s interest and stand on South China Sea (SCS) is well, uniquely Singaporean.
PM Lee had already explained it in great detail in this year’s National Day Rally speech.
PM Lee said that Singapore did not have any claims of our own in the SCS, and we do not take sides. But we have a lot at stake in the issue, and three important things matter to us: (1) International law; (2) freedom of navigation, and (3) a united ASEAN.
“So, on the South China Sea, we have got our own stand, principled, consistent; different from China’s, different from the Philippines or America. Other countries will persuade us to side with them, one side or the other, and we have to choose our own place to stand, what is in our interest, calculate it, choose the spot, stand firm, we cannot succumb to pressure.” – PM Lee, National Day Rally 2016
For all you know, this may be just one big bureaucratic cock-up by the shipping line (highly likely).
BUT if it isn’t, our country’s sovereignty could be at stake and Coldplay tickets are the least of your concerns.
Singapore must stand firm. Singapore must not succumb to pressure.
More importantly, Singaporeans must understand why we are doing what we are doing.
That is all.
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