Singapore's Terrex military vehicles arrive after 2-month Hong Kong detention

Singapore has been shipping military equipment through commercial liners for the last 30 years.

Terrex tussle worsens: Singapore cites international law; Beijing raises One-China principle
Terrex armoured personnel carrier of Singapore SAF seized in Hong Kong. Reuters

The nine Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles belonging to the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) have arrived in Singapore after they were released by the Hong Kong Customs. The SAF said the armoured carriers will undergo maintenance as they have returned from training sessions abroad.

"The nine Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles (ICVs) and other equipment arrived in Singapore today," Singapore's ministry of defence (Mindef) said in a statement on Monday.

Hong Kong said last week it will return the personnel carrier vehicles it seized in November to Singapore, adding that criminal prosecution will be initiated as the shipment breached Hong Kong laws. The vehicles were confiscated by Hong Kong customs on November 23 while they were being shipped from Taiwan, where the SAF conducts troop training.

Singapore Prime Minister wrote to the Hong Kong chief executive demanding the immediate release of the carrier vehicles but the standoff continued as China was upset over the city state's military ties with Taiwan which it considers a breakaway province.

Singapore has been shipping military equipment through commercial liners for the last 30 years and an incident such as this was the first ever, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen told parliament. The capture of vehicles was seen as China's retaliation against Singapore, which supported the International court's ruling that deprived China of wholesale claim to the disputed South China Sea.

With the impasse continuing, China's Global Times ratcheted up tensions saying the confiscated military vehicles should be melted down. It said Singapore was deliberately undermining the One-China principle which espouses the eventual merger of Taiwan with mainland under the same flag.

However, Singapore leadership urged calm in responses and maintained that the seizure of the Terrex vehicles was not an existential threat to the country.

Hong Kong said last week the investigation into the detention of the vehicles was completed but added that it will launch a criminal prosecution over the beach of shipping laws.

"Import, export and transshipment/transit of strategic commodities in breach of licensing requirement are criminal offences punishable under the Hong Kong law," Tang said. "The action by the Hong Kong Customs on November 23, 2016 was taken because there was a suspected breach of the Hong Kong law," Hong Kong Customs said in a statement.

However, the authority clarified later that Singapore government was not the target of any investigation.