Navy’s ‘friendship’ visit to S’pore sunk

By Joseph Yeh, The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — The R.O.C. Navy Fleet of Friendship was forced to cancel a scheduled port call in Singapore after news of the scheduled stop was leaked to the media, a source has told The China Post. Online news site Up Media recently reported that the Fleet of Friendship had received Singaporean government approval to dock at the city-state’s port as a gesture of goodwill as part of the fleet’s ongoing monthslong voyage.

The Navy subsequently denied having plans for such a stopover, which would have been the fleet’s first in Singapore since 2002. A source close to the matter, however, has told The China Post that the fleet had indeed been granted permission to dock but that the plan was scrapped at the last minute due to the Up Media leak. Despite lacking official ties, Taiwan and Singapore have regularly conducted military exchanges. However, the source said, Singapore has grown increasingly unhappy in recent years as Taiwanese media have repeatedly made joint projects public before their agreed-upon announcement dates.

The recent incident was just another example of this, the source said, adding that the fleet also had port calls in 2005 and 2009 canceled due to leaks.

The two countries have a history of close military exchanges. One of the most high-profile examples is Project Starlight, an agreement reached between late President Chiang Kai-shek and then-Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Kwan Yew in 1974 and signed in 1975. Under the agreement, the R.O.C. military helps train Singaporean troops in the so-called Starlight Exercises in Taiwan.

The Fleet of Friendship left Kaohsiung’s Zuoying Military Harbor on March 21 for a monthslong goodwill visit to some of the nation’s diplomatic allies. It is currently touring the allies in the Pacific and is scheduled to return to Taiwan next month. This year’s fleet consists of two destroyers, Cheng Kung-class and Kang Ding-class frigates, as well as one supply vessel, the Panshih (磐石).