China Increases Pressure on Singapore over South China Sea and Taiwan

Yuhao Yang, Asia & Pacific Section Analyst

27 November 2016

Executive Summary:

It is likely that China will continue to pressure Singapore over South China Sea disputes as well as Singaporean-Taiwanese military cooperation. Hong Kong seized armored vehicles of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). Beijing continues its warnings against Singapore’s involvement in the South China Sea disputes, despite increased economic cooperation between the two countries.

Discussion:

SAF hired a Japanese container and shipped nine Terrex AV-81 armored vehicles from Taiwan to Singapore via Hong Kong.[i]  After mainland Chinese law enforcement officials informed their Hong Kong counterparts that the vessel contained “undeclared military material” when it docked in Xiamen, China. Hong Kong customs seized the vehicles on 23 November 2016.[ii] As SAF tried to free the vehicles with speed and efficiency, Beijing reiterated its warnings against the city-state’s military cooperation with Taiwan.[iii]

terrex-av-81-armored-vehicles
Terrex AV-81

As a non-claimant on South China Sea disputes in the case of Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration, Singapore supported Southeast Asian nations against China and dismayed Beijing. Chinese Vice Foreign Minister, Liu Zhenmin urged the city-state stay out of the disputes.[iv] Professor Jin Yinan, an influential defense advisor for People’s Liberation Army, suggested Beijing should impose sanctions and retaliate against Singapore.[v] Chinese Foreign Ministry also supported Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of a Chinese state newspaper on his tiff, against Singaporean ambassador Stanley Loh.[vi]

Singapore is a supporter of China’s One Belt, One Road initiative. The country provided a pivotal location for the “maritime silk road” and hoped to increase business and people exchange through the plan.[vii] However, the Japanese provided an alternative of China for the construction of a Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed railway.[viii] Despite territorial disputes with China, Kuala Lumpur’s increased maritime cooperation with Beijing ensured the joint building of a deep sea-port in Malacca and offered a strategic alternative for China in the region.[ix]

singapore-route

Approximate route of the vessel before seizure of the Singaporean armored vehicles

Analytic Confidence:  Analytic confidence for this product is medium. The sources for this product range from medium to high reliability. Proficiency in Chinese and English helped the analyst confirm there is little to no contradiction between original and translated sources. The analyst utilized Google Map as a reference tool for this product. The analyst had sufficient time for this product.

 

[i] http://www.straitstim
es.com/asia/east-asia/saf-team-on-their-way-to-hong-kong-to-address-security-of-seized-equipment
(High)

[ii] http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/politics/article/2049429/mainland-agents-tipped-hong-kong-about-singapores-tanks (Medium)

[iii] http://www.reuters.com/article/us-hongkong-singapore-military-idUSKBN13K1AN (High)

[iv] http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2004638/china-urges-singapore-not-interfere-south-china-sea (High)

[v] http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/east-asia/china-should-make-singapore-pay-over-south-china-sea-dispute-says-pla-defence-adviser (High)

[vi] http://www.scmp.com/week-asia/opinion/article/2024088/how-china-using-its-global-times-attack-dog-intimidate-singapore (Medium)

[vii] http://www.straitstimes.com/business/economy/one-belt-one-road-plan-key-to-china-spore-ties  (High)

[viii] http://www.scmp.com/news/asia/east-asia/article/2046139/malaysia-pm-najib-visits-japan-compete-china-high-speed-rail (High)

[ix] http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/malacca-harbour-plan-raises-questions-about-chinas-strategic-aims (High)

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