China comments on Singapore armored vehicles, equipment seized

China comments on Singapore armored vehicles, equipment seized

Mainland Chinese law enforcement organisations had tipped off Hong Kong customs officials about a shipment of Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) armoured vehicles that arrived at the city's port earlier this week, leading to its eventual seizure, a new report has alleged.

Singapore's Straits Times newspaper said Friday the eight-wheeled Terrex infantry carrier vehicles were being shipped back to Singapore from Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan. Chinese leaders have repeatedly told Singaporean counterparts not to get involved in the territorial dispute, in which China asserts sovereignty over waters and islands claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei. "Singapore authorities are providing relevant assistance to the Hong Kong Customs and expect the shipment to return to Singapore expeditiously". "I'd like to reiterate that the Chinese government firmly opposes any of the countries that has diplomatic ties with us to have any form of official exchanges with Taiwan, including defense exchanges and cooperation", said Geng in response to another related question. According to the South China Morning Post, a government source said that it was possible the containers with APCs were unloaded by mistake at the terminal with other general goods.

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Project Starlight is an agreement signed by Singapore and Taiwan in the 1970s, under which Taiwan's military is helping train Singaporean troops.

Hong Kong's Customs and Excise Department then received a tip from China, encouraging it to boarding the ship for inspection and seize the military items, the report said.

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At a routine press briefing on Friday the ministry's spokesman Geng Shuang said China is now verifying the related details when asked if Singapore has to contact the Chinese Foreign Ministry for the release of the vehicles.

In the meantime, Japanese-owned container shipping firm APL, which was hired by the SAF to transport the cargo, has "assured the SAF that they are working with Hong Kong authorities to resolve the issue", Mindef added.

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Safeguarding national security and sovereignty is one of the key criteria Beijing has set for Hong Kong's future leader, which can be a real test when it comes to handling thorny cases. Nevertheless, the company is "committed to ensuring cargo security as well as full compliance with all regulatory and trade requirements in its conduct of business". APL is a subsidiary of the French-based CMA CGM Group.

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