07 December 2016
On Nov 23, nine Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles (ICV) en route to Singapore from the southern Taiwan city of Kaohsiung were detained by the authorities at Hong Kong’s Kwai Chung Container Terminal, after what appears to have been a routine inspection by its Customs authorities.
The Terrex ICVs were being shipped from Taiwan back to Singapore, having taken part in routine training exercises that the SAF conducts in Taiwan.
There is ostensibly “nothing unnatural” about the SAF shipping military equipment by commercial carriers through Hong Kong, said the SAF’s Chief of Army, Maj Gen Melvin Ong. Many military organisations use commercial carriers to move their heavy equipment and military organisations in the region often ship their heavy equipment through Hong Kong. Shipping heavy equipment by commercial carriers is often the most cost-effective and efficient way to move such equipment.
Nor is the impounding of the SAF’s ICVs unprecedented. In September 2010, a South Korean K-21 light tank and armoured personnel carrier was impounded by Hong Kong’s Customs while being shipped from Saudi Arabia back to South Korea.
The equipment was subsequently returned to South Korea through China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Nevertheless, it may be counter-intuitive to see the impounding of the SAF’s ICVs as business (or politics) as usual. Instead, it is likely that two separate political developments are part of this incident.
… Bernard F. W. Loo is Associate Professor and Coordinator of the Master of Science (Strategic Studies) degree programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS). This piece first appeared in the PacNet Newsletter, published by the Pacific Forum CSIS.
GPO / IDSS / Online / Print
Last updated on 07/12/2016