SINGAPORE — Nine Singaporean armored vehicles held in Hong Kong after arriving in transit from Taiwan in November have been returned to Singapore, according to a statement from the Southeast Asian country’s Ministry of Defense.
The nine Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles arrived in Singapore on Monday and are to be transported to a military camp for post-training administration, which includes serviceability checks and routine maintenance for the vehicles and related equipment, the ministry said in a statement that day.
The return of the vehicles came after Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement on Jan. 24 that the Hong Kong authorities had completed their investigation and would be releasing the vehicles and other equipment to Singapore.
Hong Kong customs officers on Nov. 23 reportedly seized containers carrying the armored vehicles as they were being shipped back to Singapore after an overseas military training mission.
The customs officers said they had found “suspicious controlled items” during a routine inspection of a ship transiting from Taiwan to Singapore.
Singapore confirmed that the Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles belonged to its military and had been used in “overseas training,” but did not say where the training mission had taken place.
Singapore’s Minister for Defense Ng Eng Hen said his country would continue to send troops on overseas training missions based on existing agreements and indicated it was no secret where they had been training.
The nine armored vehicles were being transported on a ship that departed from Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan and was en route to Singapore via Hong Kong. Kaohsiung customs officers said the shipment of Singapore military equipment and vehicles was being legally transported to Singapore.
Hong Kong media outlets speculated that Beijing had a hand in the incident and was trying to pressure Singapore into ending its military exchanges with Taiwan, amid strained cross-Taiwan Strait ties.
Following the incident, China said it was opposed to any military exchanges between its diplomatic allies and Taiwan.