Posts Tagged ‘Ng Eng Hen’

ASEAN and China Set to Agree on Single Draft South China Sea Code of Conduct

July 29, 2018

According to the annotated draft of the Joint Communique of the 51st ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting to be issued in Singapore early next month, viewed by The Diplomat, the ministers:

… noted with satisfaction that ASEAN Member States and China had agreed on a Single Draft COC [Code of Conduct] Negotiating Text at the 15th ASEAN-China Senior Officials’ Meeting on the Implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea [SOM-DOC] in Changsha, China on 27 June 2018.

An internal ASEAN report on the 15th SOM-DOC, also sighted by The Diplomat, records the endorsement of senior officials on four points.

Second, the Single Draft COC Negotiating Text “will be the basis of COC negotiations… [and is] a living document. All parties reserved the right to consult with their domestic agencies and submit new or revised input.”First, “all parties shall keep the Single Draft COC Negotiating Text strictly confidential throughout the entire process of COC negotiations.”

Third, the Single Draft COC Negotiating Text will be submitted to the ASEAN-China Post Ministerial Conference (PMC) to be held in Singapore from 2-3 August for notation. The announcement that ASEAN and China had agreed on the Single Draft COC Negotiating Text “will be reserved for the ASEAN-China PMC.”

Fourth, senior officials agreed that there, “will be at least three readings of the Single Draft COC Negotiating Text” by the ASEAN-China Joint Working Group on the Implementation of the Declaration on Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (JWG-DOC). After each reading the draft text “will be submitted to the SOM-DOC.” The JWG-DOC “will not be precluded from surfacing issues on the COC to the SOM-DOC for consideration and guidance while each reading is underway.”

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It is likely that the first reading of the Single Draft COC Negotiating Text will be conducted at the 25th JWG-DOC to be held in Siem Reap, Cambodia from 1-2 September and that the second reading will occur at the 26th JWG-DOC meeting to be held back-to-back with the 16th SOM-DOC in Manila from October 23 to 26.

What is the significance of the agreement between ASEAN members and China on a Single Draft COC Negotiating Text?

It should be recalled that ASEAN and China first began discussions on a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea after China occupied Mischief Reef in 1995. The two sides exchanged their respective COC drafts in March 2000 and agreed to draw up a consolidated text. However, they could not reach agreement on four major issues: the geographic scope (inclusion of the Paracel islands), restrictions on construction on occupied and unoccupied features, military activities in waters adjacent to the Spratly islands, and whether or not fishermen found in disputed waters could be detained and arrested.

As a result, ASEAN and China then concluded negotiations on the DOC, a non-binding political statement, in November 2002. The DOC states that, “the Parties concerned reaffirm that the adoption of a code of conduct in the South China Sea would further promote peace and stability in the region and agree to work, on the basis of consensus, towards the eventual attainment of this objective.”

It took two years of discussions before ASEAN and China reached agreement on the terms of reference establishing the Joint ASEAN-China Working Group to implement the DOC.

At the first meeting of the JWC-DOC in August 2005, ASEAN tabled draft guidelines to implement the DOC. Point two of the ASEAN draft called for ASEAN consultations prior to meeting with China. This proved to be a sticking point. Another six years of intermittent discussions and the exchange of twenty-one successive drafts took place before final agreement was reached. ASEAN revised point two to read that ASEAN would “promote dialogue and consultation among the parties.”

In sum, the discussions on implementing the DOC and drawing up a COC are between China and the 10 ASEAN member states and not ASEAN, per se. Prior to the 15th SOM-DOC in June this year, there were several drafts in circulation presented by individual countries and this proved politically sensitive if not an obstacle to reaching agreement on a consolidated text. Now each of the 11 parties have become stakeholders in the Single Draft COC Negotiating Text process.

While there may be light at the end of the COC tunnel, it must be noted that the full and effective implementation of the 2002 DOC is a prerequisite before the COC can be implemented. The DOC calls for cooperation in five areas: marine environmental protection; marine scientific research; safety of navigation and communication at sea; search and rescue operations; and combating transnational crime, including but not limited to trafficking in illicit drugs, piracy and armed robbery at sea, and illegal traffic in arms.

The internal ASEAN report on the 15th SOM-DOC noted that progress has been made in this area. The SOM endorsed the Work Plan on the Implementation of the DOC (2016-18) and took note of the two ad hoc technical meetings held in conjunction with the 24th JWG-DOC on 25 June. The technical meetings discussed marine environmental protection and safety of navigation.

Here too, progress is likely to be protracted. The internal ASEAN report on the 15th SOM-DOC noted that, “some parties encouraged the convening of ad-hoc technical meetings to enhance practical cooperation for the benefit of DOC implementation.” In discussions on the situation in the South China Sea, the internal ASEAN report noted that, “some parties also reiterated the importance of self-restraint and non-militarization and of refraining from actions that would escalate tensions in the South China Sea.” The wording of these two sentences indicates that consensus has not yet been reached and more work needs to be done.

The annotated draft of the Joint Communique of the 51st ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting runs to 29 pages including 70 numbered paragraphs. Seven countries plus the ASEAN Secretariat inserted 176 suggested changes. Thailand topped the list at 30 percent, followed by Indonesia (21 percent), Brunei (16 percent), Malaysia (14 percent), Philippines (10 percent), Singapore (6 percent), and Myanmar and the ASEAN Secretariat making up the final 3 percent. Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam did not make any interventions.

The South China Sea section of the Joint Communique of the 51st AMM contains only two paragraphs. Three countries suggested a total of six revisions – Brunei four and the Philippines and Singapore one each.

The first paragraph of the South China Sea section (point 65) reaffirms the importance of “peace, security, stability, safety and freedom of navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea and recognized the benefits of having the South China Sea as a sea of peace, stability and prosperity.” This is followed by a call for the “full and effective implementation” of the DOC “in its entirety.” It then notes that the ASEAN foreign ministers:

… warmly welcomed the improving cooperation between ASEAN and China and were encouraged by the progress of the substantive negotiations towards the early conclusion of an effective Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) on a mutually-agreed timeline.

The text then mentions the foreign ministers’ “satisfaction that ASEAN Member States and China had agreed on a Single Draft COC Negotiating Text” at the 15th SOM-DOC. This paragraph contains an annotation by Brunei requesting that this sentence be deleted on the grounds that the ASEAN-China PMC should make the announcement since it will convene after the 51st AMM.

Singapore, according to the annotation, responded that the sentence should be retained because the 51st AMM Joint Communique “will likely be released after the ASEAN-China PMC. Hence, we can reference Single Draft here.” Singapore also noted that agreement on a Single Draft COC Negotiating Text “is factual, regardless of the announcement by the ASEAN and China FMs [foreign ministers].” Singapore, as ASEAN Chair, appears to want to tie down reference to the Single Draft COC Negotiating Text at both senior official and ministerial levels.

The text also took note of the successful testing of the hotline to manage maritime emergencies in the South China Sea between the foreign ministries of China and ASEAN member states and operationalization of the Joint Statement on the Application of the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) in the South China Sea. This highlights that progress has been made in two of the five areas of cooperation spelled out in the DOC.

According to the annotation, Brunei suggested the insertion of a new paragraph and additional text to read: “We stressed the importance of undertaking confidence building and preventive measures to enhance, among others, trust and confidence amongst parties.”

The second paragraph in the South China Sea section (point 66) “took note of the concerns expressed by some countries on the land reclamations ‘and activities’ [suggested insertion by Brunei] in the area, which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine peace, security and stability in the region. Brunei suggested a minor revision in the follow on sentence.

The final intervention, by the Philippines, suggested moving a sentence that referred to the forthcoming ASEAN-China Maritime Exercise to an earlier section of the Joint Communique. In the first section of the Joint Communique, headed ASEAN Community Building, the Philippines also suggested moving point 8, with its reference to “full respect for legal and diplomatic processes,” forward to point 2 to highlight the importance of the Arbitral Tribunal that heard the case brought by the Philippines against China.

The Zero Draft of the Chairman’s Statement of the ASEAN Post Ministerial Conference (PMC) 10 + 1 Sessions with the Dialogue Partners (August 2-3), also viewed by The Diplomat, repeated verbatim the wording in the annotated draft of the Joint Communique of the 51st AMM with respect to the Single Draft COC Negotiating Text and then added these words “and encouraged further progress towards an effective COC.”

It appears that under Singapore’s diplomatic leadership, as ASEAN Chair and ASEAN country coordinator for China, progress is being made to develop cooperative activities envisaged in the 2002 DOC, a prerequisite for the implementation of the COC. At the same time, Singapore has succeeded in focusing the attention of ASEAN member states and China on completing a Single Draft COC Negotiating Text on a mutually agreed time line including at least three readings of the draft text.

Singapore’s successful efforts at consensus-making at this 51st AMM stand in contrast to the fissures that emerged earlier in April when the South China Sea section of the Chairman’s Statement  at the 32nd ASEAN Leaders’ Summit was reduced from seven to one paragraph in an attempt to paper over differences. This time Cambodia and Vietnam were conspicuous by their silence.

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Asean: Building China’s Confidence in the South China Sea

July 29, 2018

During this year’s chairmanship of ASEAN, Singapore is expected to continue the association’s work in developing measures to help mitigate tensions in the South China Sea. In recent years, ASEAN and China have agreed to establish communication hotlines between their respective foreign ministries as well as to implement the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES). CUES is intended to reduce incidents between the navies (and eventually the coast guards) of littoral states.

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Association of Southeast Asian Nations Director General Lim Jock Hoi meets China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi. Credit Reuters, Greg Baker

A framework for a Code of Conduct (COC) was agreed upon in May 2017 — an incredible 25 years since the need for a COC was first acknowledged. The implementation of its predecessor (the 2002 Declaration of Conduct) continues to be discussed.

In February 2018, China agreed to start negotiating details of the COC with ASEAN. To date, there is no clarity on whether the outcome document will be ‘legally binding’ as originally envisioned. This lack of clarity is due to the difficulty of establishing verification and enforcement mechanisms among parties with such highly asymmetric power capabilities.

One obvious shortcoming of any COC is that it is limited to China and ASEAN as the negotiating parties. The South China Sea issue has evolved from the original question in the 1990s of managing territorial and maritime disputes between ASEAN states and China into a broader geostrategic contest between China and the United States, with ASEAN caught in the middle. China has little incentive to allow its behaviour to be constrained by agreements to which the United States, or any other major power that operates in the South China Sea, is not similarly obliged to adhere.

China’s current willingness to commit to COC negotiations with ASEAN is likely motivated by a desire to undercut further involvement by the United States. Under US President Donald Trump, the United States has increased and upgraded its freedom of navigation operations in the disputed areas. The indications that Taiwan — with the independence-inclined Democratic Progressive Party in control — may re-emerge as a flashpoint in US–Chinese relations enhances the strategic value of the surrounding seas.

ASEAN is not oblivious to these new challenges. A number of constructive proposals remain on its multilateral cooperation agenda. CUES was expanded last year to include all members of the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting Plus (ADMM+), a forum that consists of ASEAN countries’ defence ministers and their counterparts from Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia and the United States. The ADMM+ has since 2013 actively conducted multilateral maritime exercises that largely focus on non-traditional security challenges, such as terrorism. In preparation for the ADMM+ meeting in October 2018, Singaporean Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen has actively endorsed expanding the CUES agreement to include the prevention of military incidents in the air.

Plans are also reported for an inaugural ASEAN–China maritime exercise that is likely to involve search-and-rescue and disaster-relief scenarios. This was an initiative that China first raised in 2015 at an ‘informal’ meeting of Chinese and ASEAN defence officials. Several ASEAN states are already engaged in exchanges or joint drills with China, such as the Philippine Coast Guard and the navies of Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore.

ASEAN now faces far more serious challenges in maintaining a central role in securing its own maritime spaces. Beijing has been offering itself to its neighbours in a new role as a provider of regional public goods, one of which is maritime security. This is logical given China’s legitimate interests in this area as a state with long coasts that face the South China Sea. But strategic distrust continues to get in the way of Southeast Asia’s receptivity. China has yet to successfully persuade other states that it will play by international rules and conventions, and this mistrust was exacerbated by China’s rejection of the 2016 arbitral award in the case filed by the Philippines.

Extra-regional states are realigning to try to balance China’s growing influence and capability. The revival of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (the United States, Japan, Australia and India) and the US construction of an Indo-Pacific strategy that links the Indian Ocean to the South China Sea and East China Sea are predictable consequences of China’s rapid progress in military modernisation and its growing foreign policy assertiveness.

If ASEAN is to mitigate the territorial and maritime tensions in the South China Sea and if it is to avoid being overrun by Chinese domination and becoming an arena once again of great-power armed confrontation, it has to more convincingly demonstrate that it remains a backbone of security multilateralism. ASEAN must prove that its cooperative security approach remains viable even under (or especially under) the evolving geopolitical environment.

Confidence-building measures are no longer enough nor are they bound to be effective in achieving their self-explanatory goal. It may be time for ASEAN to go beyond confidence-building measures and reach much higher than its customary preference for low-hanging fruit. The ADMM+, as the most inclusive and productive platform thus far, may be the best bet to obtain what ASEAN needs.

To ensure a strong ADMM+, ASEAN member states must also develop ASEAN itself, whether through ADMM or ‘minus X’ arrangements, into an autonomous and cohesive bloc that is a constant advocate and activist for regional maritime security.

Aileen S P Baviera is a Professor at the Asian Center, University of the Philippines and editor-in-chief of the journalAsian Politics & PolicyShe also heads the Philippine-based think tank Asia Pacific Pathways to Progress.


 (Over and over again, Cambodia has allowed China to get what it wants in the South China Sea — Making a mockery of ASEAN)

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The Philippines has extensive defenses on its island holdings


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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

Asean and China committed to code of conduct for South China Sea disputes

February 18, 2018

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Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen speaks at the 54th Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany.PHOTO: MINISTRY OF DEFENCE

SINGAPORE – China and Asean are committed to completing code of conduct guidelines to handle disputes in the South China Sea, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen on Saturday (Feb 17).

Dr Ng told a maritime security roundtable at the Munich Security Conference in Germany that one aspect of China’s interest in the island chains in the South China Sea is they present potential encirclement against it.

The approach of Asean member states to these issues has been a “pragmatic one”, said Dr Ng, noting that the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, which Asean and China signed in 2002, took more than five years.

“This frames our expectations for the (code of conduct),” he said.

“In the meantime, the Asean Defence Ministers Meeting has worked hard to produce consensus on practical measures that prevent mishaps and miscalculations, or if there are,to de-escalate issues.”

He noted that there have been at least 38 reported small-scale incidents between claimant states’ ship since 2013, many of which involved fishing vessels that were eventually resolved peacefully.

Dr Ng said the Republic was glad to see that foreign affairs agencies had operationalised their hotline to respond to maritime emergencies, and that defence agencies in the region had also launched a similar direct communications infrastructure.

Dr Ng said Singapore is also pleased that the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) had been expanded to all ADMM-Plus countries in November last year (2017).

ADMM-Plus includes the 10 Asean states as well as eight other countries – Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia and the United States.

Singapore, the Asean Chair this year (2018), hopes to develop guidelines for encounters between regional military aircraft, he said, adding that multilateral undertakings, such as the Asean-China Maritime Exercise 2018, can “enhance practical cooperation and build confidence”.

Noting that an estimated one-third of all global shipping passes through the South China Sea, Dr Ng said: “All countries have recognised the critical need for peace and stability in these waters.”

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US reaffirmed commitment to Asia-Pacific region and bilateral defence ties with Singapore: Ng Eng Hen

April 6, 2017


SD Mattis meets with Singapore’s Minister of Defence Ng Eng Hen

US Defence Secretary James Mattis and Singapore’s  Ng Eng Hen at the Pentagon, in Washington, DC. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE – United States Defence Secretary James Mattis has reaffirmed the US commitment to the Asia-Pacific region and expressed a desire to deepen bilateral defence ties with Singapore, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen.

He also revealed in a Facebook posting on Thursday (April 6) morning that Mr Mattis will be attending the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, an annual security dialogue that is usually held in late May and often features top brass military and defence personnel.

Dr Ng, who is making a working visit to the US, met Mr Mattis at the Pentagon on Wednesday (US time), and described their meeting as “warm and productive”.

“We discussed common security challenges including the threat of terrorism and ways to deal with them. I look forward to returning the warm hospitality when Secretary Mattis attends the Shangri-La Dialogue in June this year,” wrote Dr Ng.

According to a transcript of an interview with Channel NewsAsia in Washington DC, Dr Ng described Mr Mattis, a former Marine Corps general, as someone who has strategies and plans, and vast experience in the US military.

“He gave a reassuring calm, and in his words, he’s now become the ‘Secretary of Reassurance’. So I was very happy with the outcome of that,” said Dr Ng.

“I think it bodes well from the security point, America’s commitment to the region, and not only commitment to the region, but commitment towards Asia-Pacific’s stability… There is much reassurance and confidence that Secretary Mattis is there.”

Dr Ng added that both countries remain committed to the enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement, signed in 2015, which will further collaboration in new areas such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, cyber defence, biosecurity and public communications.

Singapore also remains committed to facilitating the use of Changi Naval Base and its air bases by American forces, said Dr Ng.

He said the purpose of his trip from Sunday to Wednesday (April 2 to 5) was to get a better feel of how to engage the US as there have been “several levels of uncertainty, unpredictability, new administration” under President Donald Trump since Mr Trump took office on Jan 20.

“We thought the best way to do that is to meet the individuals, the ambassadors, and we lined up a significant number of calls with old friends of Singapore who understand the politics, who understand the history of Singapore and relations with the US, and understand our region,” said Dr Ng.

He said it has been a very useful trip,  calling it not only a voyage of discovery, but also one of reassurance and reaffirmation by many strong friends and supporters of Singapore in Washington, “who have given us very good guide posts and who also gave us strong assurance that you can call on them if need be”.

Asked about the upcoming Mar-a-Lago Summit meeting between US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping in the US, Dr Ng said it is a “good development” that both leaders are meeting, as it is better for both countries to be cooperating than to be in an antagonistic relationship.

He said Singapore believes it would be healthy for the US and China to agree to avoid trade wars and to help both sides grow economically.

“Because from Singapore’s perspective, we benefit whenever global trade goes up. And, simplistically, if there are protectionist measures from any one country, retaliation, the effect is, as we’ve known from past experience is that global trade just goes down,” added Dr Ng.

China Warns Singapore To Be Cautious in its Handling of the Detention of Military Vehicles Issue in Hong Kong — Stresses Importance of One-China Principle

January 9, 2017

BEIJING – China has called on Singapore to be cautious in its handling of the detention of the nine Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Terrex infantry carriers in Hong Kong, adding that the incident was being handled in accordance with the law, the South China Morning Post reported on Monday (Jan 9).

“I hope the relevant parties can be cautious in their remarks and actions,” foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said at a ministry briefing.

“I want to stress that China hopes other nations, including Singapore, follow the one-China principle,” he was quoted saying. “This is the foundation for bilateral ties between China and any other nation. I hope the relevant parties can follow the laws of Hong Kong, China,” he added.

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Singapore’s mililitary vehicles, wrapped in green, detained in Hong Kong by China

His comments came after Singapore’s Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen on Monday said the detention of the vehicles did not comply with international law.

He added that Singapore looks forward to the Terrexes being returned.

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Speaking in parliament, Dr Ng explained that the vehicles are the property of the Singapore Government and protected by international law.

Under the principle of sovereign immunity, property belonging to a country cannot be seized or forfeited. This principle is well established under international law and also the law of Hong Kong, a Special Administrative Region of China, Dr Ng said.

“Accordingly, the Singapore Government has asserted our sovereign rights over the SAF’s Terrexes,” Dr Ng said.

The nine armoured vehicles were seized by Hong Kong Customs on Nov 23 when they were in transit on their way back from a military exercise in Taiwan.



Parliament: Detention of Terrexes against international law, Singapore looks forward to their return, says Ng Eng Hen


The detention of the nine Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Terrex infantry carriers in Hong Kong does not comply with international or Hong Kong law, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen.PHOTO: MINDEF

SINGAPORE – The detention of the nine Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Terrex infantry carriers in Hong Kong does not comply with international or Hong Kong law, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen told Parliament on Monday (Jan 9).

And Singapore looks forward to the Terrexes being returned, he said.

Dr Ng explained that the vehicles are the property of the Singapore Government and protected by international law. Under the principle of sovereign immunity, property belonging to a country cannot be seized or forfeited. This principle is well established under international law and also the law of Hong Kong, a Special Administrative Region of China, Dr Ng said.

Singapore has informed Hong Kong several times over the last two months that the Terrexes belong to the Singapore Government and are therefore immune from any measures of constraint, he said.

Singapore’s military vehicles seized in Hong Kong on Nov. 24.  Photographer: Kin Cheung/AP Photo

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has also written to Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying on the matter, he added.

The Hong Kong authorities have responded that investigations are ongoing and will take some time to be completed, Dr Ng said.

Singapore welcomes this response, he added.

“Adherence to the rule of law has been the fundamental basis for peace and stability for the last half century in Asia. It has enabled countries both large and small to build trust and confidence in one another, cooperate and prosper together,” he said.

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Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Terrex infantry carriers

The nine armoured vehicles were seized by Hong Kong Customs on Nov 23 when they were in transit on their way back from a military exercise in Taiwan.

Representatives of the shipping company APL had held three meetings with Hong Kong authorities but no formal reasons were given for detaining the Terrexes.

Dr Ng said APL’s compliance with the rules of the Hong Kong port is a matter between APL and Hong Kong authorities. But that dispute should not affect Singapore’s legal position and rights with regard to the Terrexes, he said.

He also reiterated that no military secrets have been compromised as the Terrexes were being used for training and did not contain sensitive equipment.

Following this episode, the SAF has reviewed its shipping procedures comprehensively to “reduce the risk of SAF equipment being taken hostage en route”.

It currently does not ship all equipment directly from point-to-point as this will cost three to four times more and add several hundred million dollars to the Defence Ministry’s annual budget. Neither does the Singapore Navy have transport ships with the scale and capability to handle all the shipping logistics the SAF needs.


Existing commercial shipping arrangements have allowed the SAF to ship equipment safely and economically without any significant incidents over the last 30 years, he said.

But there are exceptions, such as when advanced weapon and sensor systems are transported, he said. In those special cases, the SAF may charter a whole ship, mandate direct shipping, or deploy protection forces. However, the Terrexes do not fall in this category, he said.

Going forward, the SAF is considering other options, such as housing the equipment overseas to avoid shipping altogether. The Navy’s Landing Ship Tanks, currently its largest multi-purpose and transport ships, are also due for replacement. The SAF will study if they should be replaced by ships of larger capacity, he said.

Singapore “Learning A Lesson” After China’s Seizure of Armoured Vehicles

December 30, 2016

Ng Eng Hen also says without elaborating that the Singapore city state has changed its practices to protect its assets

By Shirley Zhao
South China Morning Post

Friday, December 30, 2016, 8:24 p.m.

The Singapore military had learned a lesson from the seizure of its armoured vehicles by the Hong Kong authorities and had changed its practices to protect its assets, the country’s defence minister said on Friday in a Facebook post.

In the post, titled 2016 – A Look Back, Ng Eng Hen described the episode as “a low point in 2016 from the defence perspective”.

“The [Singapore armed forces] will learn from this episode and has already changed its practices to better protect our assets,” Ng said, without revealing details.

“But all of us are of course upset that the Terrexes, our property, have not been returned to Singapore.”

Ng said the Singapore government had been working “at all levels” to bring the vehicles back “quietly and out of the limelight where it is more effective”.

Ng added that he would disclose more details during the next parliamentary sitting.

The nine armoured vehicles, which are being kept at the customs cargo examination facility in Tuen Mun, were found by Hong Kong customs on November 23 in 12 containers which were on their way to Singapore from the Taiwanese port of Kaohsiung without the required permits.

 Some of the armoured vehicles seized at the Kwai Chung container terminal. Photo: Sam Tsang

The vehicles, which were not “specifically” declared in the cargo manifest, had been used in a military exercise in Taiwan. It was Hong Kong’s biggest seizure of “strategic commodities” in two decades.

Ng called on the military not to lose focus or “allow this one issue to dominate all else”. He also urged fellow Singaporeans not to lose confidence in the country’s sovereignty.

“We are a sovereign and independent country, and we will chart our own future,” he said.

Ng reaffirmed that the country’s relations with others such as the United States, China and India remained strong and healthy.

“We may not see eye to eye on every issue, but that is the norm of bilateral relations between any two independent and sovereign nations,” he said.

“More importantly, with these countries, both sides value the mutual benefits that arise from strong bilateral ties and want to enhance these ties, not make them worse.”

Singapore was rebuked by Beijing for maintaining military ties with Taiwan, which Beijing considers a breakaway province.

In response to the city state’s demand for an explanation, Beijing reiterated on December 7 its call for Singapore to respect the one-China policy and abide by Hong Kong law.


China’s rise cannot be contained: Singapore defence minister

December 5, 2016

SINGAPORE: The US presence in the Asia-Pacific should not be for the sole purpose of containing China, either perceived or otherwise, Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said during a panel discussion at the Reagan National Defense Forum on Sunday (Dec 4).

“It is neither possible nor strategically necessary to contain China’s rise … China is now an integral leader of global systems of trade, finance and security. It is clear that China needs the world as much as the world needs China, and I think this interdependence will grow, not diminish,” he said at the forum in Simi Valley, California, attended by US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, foreign defence ministers and members of the US Congress.

He added that the rise of China, India and ASEAN are a “virtuous outcome” of the US foreign and defence policies over the last seven decades. “That very fact alone validates the US foreign and defence policies in Asia over the last few decades. But I think this success brings a suite of new challenges as we contemplate US foreign policy moving forward,” Dr Ng said.

Asked about potential collaboration between the incoming Donald Trump administration and Taiwan, in the wake of a phone call between the US president-elect and Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, Dr Ng said it was not Singapore’s place to second-guess on the reason for the call.

“The president-elect’s administration team followed up after the phone call to say that they adhere to the one-China policy, as does Singapore and we are very careful and in fact, constructive,” Dr Ng said, pointing to instances where Singapore helped advance the one-China policy, such as hosting the Wang-Koo talks in 1993, the 1992 One Consensus meeting and the meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and then Taiwanese leader Ma Ying-jeou.

Said the defence minister: “I think there are a lot of benefits of a strong China; being able to provide opportunities for both US and other countries in the world, and I think that there are many areas that you can focus on that are productive.”

Dr Ng said that he does not believe, even with any new administration, that the US would reduce its presence in the Asia-Pacific region.

“The US’ presence in the Asia-Pacific region based predominantly on security is unidimensional and structurally brittle… The US needs a multifaceted relationship with countries in Asia,” he said. “Singapore looks forward to working with the new administration to continue to allow the US to be a stabilising force in the Asia-Pacific region.”

China has harsh Words for Singapore Over Armored Troop Carriers and Taiwan

November 29, 2016

By Associated Press

BEIJING — A Chinese state newspaper on Tuesday criticized Singapore over the Southeast Asian city-state’s military training with self-governing Taiwan, following the impounding of nine Singaporean infantry fighting vehicles transiting through Hong Kong.

The Communist Party-run Global Times said in an editorial Tuesday that Singapore was responsible for the incident, but gave no details about what laws or regulations have been broken by the shipping of the armored vehicles from Taiwan. The vehicles were being sent to Singapore from Kaohsiung, in southern Taiwan, after a military exercise there, when they were seized on Wednesday by Hong Kong.

The editorial said China has long opposed all forms of military cooperation between other countries and Taiwan, which Beijing claims as a breakaway province to be reunited with by force if necessary.

“China opposes the outside world having any form of military cooperation or exchange with Taiwan,” the paper said. “Singapore, a state that has diplomatic relations with China, should be cautious in this regard.”

Singapore’s defense minister, Ng Eng Hen, said Tuesday that the city-state supports the “one-China” principle — Beijing’s view that the mainland and Taiwan are part of a single Chinese nation — and that Singapore is open about its overseas training arrangements.

Singapore and Taiwan have a longstanding military relationship that began in the 1970s and involves Taiwan being used as grounds for Singaporean infantry training.

“Any training matters between us and other countries are bilateral, and we should not unnecessarily, until the facts come out, muddle the picture and impute various motives,” he said.

Ng said Singapore “plays a positive role in cross-strait relations, and we will continue to do so,” citing as an example the city-state’s hosting of a historic meeting last year between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Taiwan’s then-president, Ma Ying-jeou.

On Monday, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said that Beijing has lodged a protest with Singapore following the seizure of the vehicles. Geng Shuang reiterated China’s opposition to military and other exchanges between Taiwan and the countries China has ties with.

“We urge the Singaporean government to stay committed to the one-China principle,” Geng said at a regular briefing.

Last week, Singapore’s defense ministry sent a team to Hong Kong to ensure the security of the eight-wheeled Singapore-made Terrex infantry carrier vehicles that were held by Hong Kong customs on Wednesday. It said the vehicles were not carrying ammunition or sensitive equipment and that the team would “assess the situation.”

Singapore’s army chief, Maj. Gen. Melvyn Ong, said Tuesday that the vehicles had been shipped commercially and the military was still attempting to ascertain the reason for the detainment.

Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post newspaper has said Singaporean authorities would need to contact China’s foreign ministry to get the vehicles back. The militaries of Taiwan and Singapore have long trained together, much to the irritation of Beijing.

The seizure also comes amid Chinese displeasure over Singapore’s calls for China to heed international rulings over territorial claims in the South China Sea, which Beijing says belongs to it almost in its entirety. China says international law has no jurisdiction over the matter.

Some experts have speculated that China would use the seized military shipment to pressure Singapore to adopt a friendlier stance toward China on the dispute.


China Using Its State Run Media To Battle Singapore Into Submission — Part of China’s South China Sea and Asia Dominance Plan?

October 2, 2016

By Peh Shing Huei

South China Morning Post

It is tempting to want to ignore the Global Times. The Chinese tabloid publishes content that is rude, crass and often skinny on facts.

But in the crowded and cutthroat scene of China’s media, it stands out for its success and popularity, built on the back of nationalistic coverage that at times borders on warmongering.

Sometimes, it reads like a daily newspaper edited by a bunch of Chinese Donald Trumps.

Yet, its value rests precisely in its loutish ways. It offers the outside world a glimpse of what the Chinese government is actually thinking, but unable or unwilling to say, at least not in such insulting ways.

And given the growing importance of Beijing, this peek into the dark side is precious.

The paper’s long-time editor-in-chief Hu Xijin said in an interview last month he was close to the security and diplomatic circles of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). They shared his paper’s editorial stance, he claimed.

Hu Xijin, chief editor of Global Times. Photo: Simon Song

“They can’t speak wilfully, but I can,” he said.

It pays to take Global Times, which is published by the CCP’s mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, seriously.

Its ongoing spat with the Singapore government is instructive.

Blow-by-blow account of the China-Singapore spat over Global Times’ South China Sea report

On September 21, the newspaper carried an article saying that Singapore had raised the issue of the disputed South China Sea at the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit held in Venezuela on September 18.

Global Times added that Singapore wanted to include an international tribunal’s ruling on the waterway, which was in favour of the Philippines, in the summit’s final document.

Singapore’s ambassador to China, Stanley Loh, rejected the tabloid’s report in an open letter, saying it was “false and unfounded”.

Singaporean ambassador to China Stanley Loh rejected the Global Times report as ‘false and unfounded’. Photo: AFP

Within hours, Hu came out to stand by his paper’s report. Then, the Chinese government came out in support of Global Times.

When a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman was asked at a regular media briefing about the tiff between Global Times and Singapore, he blamed an unspecified “individual nation” for insisting on including South China Sea issues in the NAM document.

‘Global Times didn’t have journalists at summit’, says Singapore ambassador as row escalates over South China Sea report

Clearly, Hu’s boast of being the voice of the Chinese government was not an empty one.

Global Times may be the bad and hawkish cop, but its messages are a transmission from within the heart of CCP power.

The choice of Global Times as its vehicle usually comes down to two reasons, domestic and foreign.

First, and most importantly, the newspaper’s popularity allows the CCP’s message to reach as many Chinese as possible.

The paper’s Chinese-language website reaches 15 million visitors daily. That is almost three times the size of Singapore’s population.

Chinese newspaper Global Times blasted over editorial on Donald Trump and poll on unifying Taiwan by force

The belligerent tone of the paper appeals to a growing home base of young nationalists, which are referred to as xiao fen hong or little pinks.

This plays into the nationalist posture of the CCP, a position that has gained greater prominence since the financial crisis of 2008 and even more so since Xi Jinping ( 習近平 ) took over the party in 2012.

The concept of the China Dream rests on restoring China to its deserved place at the top of the world and Global Times gives vent to such aspirations.

A US Navy crewman views a computer screen showing Chinese construction on the reclaimed land of Fiery Cross Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. Photo: Reuters

Very often, this means mocking, scolding and insulting other countries. Which brings us to the second reason.

The Global Times is noticed around the world. While the paper is often lampooned overseas, foreign media pay close attention to its stories.

For the CCP, it is no use blasting other countries unless the recipient gets the message.

In that way, Global Times can be, in a sense, fair. It directs its vitriol at almost every country and territory. The top three are usually the United States, Japan and the pro-independence camp of Taiwan.

Is the Global Times really China’s official mouthpiece when it comes to criticising Hong Kong?

Next up, the rest of the world takes turns to feel the brunt of Beijing’s wrath. Last month, for instance, an editorial lambasted Australia for its support of The Hague tribunal’s ruling on the South China Sea.

“If Australia steps into the South China Sea waters, it will be an ideal target for China to warn and strike,” the Global Times threatened.

Late last year, the newspaper referred to Australia’s air operations in Southeast Asia and said “it would be a shame if one day a plane fell from the sky and it happened to be Australian”.

For Singapore, the current dispute is not the first time it has been on the receiving end of Global Times’ fire.

Former Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew – criticised as ‘ungrateful’ by the Global Times. Photo: AFP

In 2009, former leader Lee Kuan Yew asked the US to increase its presence in Asia so as “to strike a balance”. The Chinese tabloid, citing netizens, criticised Lee as a political animal who was ungrateful to China.

Through these news stories, Beijing aims to influence, scare and bully foreign states into submission.

Such are the intentions of the latest Global Times’ reports. They are designed to frighten Singapore into, at the very least, silence on the South China Sea.

As Singapore is the country coordinator of Asean-China dialogue until mid-2018, it can expect such Chinese pressure to continue, led more often than not, by Global Times.

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 (Maybe soon the Philippines)

Duterte ‘flips the bird’ at the EU during a speech televised on state

   (From July 12, 2016)

Above Chinese chart shows China’s “Nine Dash Line.” China says it owns all ocean territory north of the Nine Dash Line. There is no international legal precedent for this claim.  On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid.

Below related through the South China Morning Post and The Straits Times:


The writer is author of ‘When the Party Ends: China’s Leaps and Stumbles after the Beijing Olympics’, a winner of the Singapore Literature Prize in 2016. He was the former China bureau chief for The Straits Times


Practical ways needed to defuse incidents in the South China Sea, Singapore’s defence chief Ng Eng Hen says

October 1, 2016

Mechanisms must be in place to prevent non-military confrontations in the disputed sea, Ng says

South China Morning Post

Saturday, October 1, 2016, 6:21 p.m.

Countries need to look for practical ways to defuse incidents in the South China Sea, where China is pitted against smaller neighbours in multiple disputes over islands, Singapore’s defence minister said.

Ng Eng Hen told reporters on Friday on the sidelines of a meeting in Hawaii that incidents may not necessarily involve military ships. He noted navies have established protocols for when they encounter each other at sea.

Instead, confrontations may develop between fishing vessels or other civilian ships, the defence minister said.

Defence ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and US Defence Secretary Ash Carter talked at their Hawaii meeting about ways to prevent such incidents from escalating, Ng said.

Our main interest is, either with or without a ruling, how do you make sure the region is still stable and to make sure you actually have mechanisms to prevent any escalations

His remarks came amid an escalating spat between China and Singapore over its supposed insistence on including Philippines’ position on the an international arbitration on claims in the South China Sea during the Non-Aligned Movement summit held in Venezuela last month.

Prominent defence adviser last week accused Singapore of playing an active role in turning the South China Sea row into an international issue in recent years and said Beijing should impose sanctions and retaliate against Singapore to make the city-state “pay the price for seriously damaging China’s interests”.

“It’s inevitable for China to strike back … Since Singapore has gone thus far, we have got to do something, be it retaliation or sanction. We must express our discontent,” Professor Jin Yinan told China National Radio on Thursday.

 Professor Jin Yinan

Singapore does not have any claims to disputed islands, but Ng said it’s interested in the issue because the South China Sea is a major shipping route and many economies depend on it.

China claims virtually the entire South China Sea as its own, citing historical reasons. That has pitted it against the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei, all members of Asean.

China has recently developed shoals and coral reefs into seven islands with massive land reclamation work. Some of the islands have airstrips capable of handling military aircraft.

In July, an international arbitration tribunal ruled against China’s claims, saying they were illegal. Beijing has rejected the ruling and continued its activities.

Ng said the tribunal’s ruling is law, but there are “practical concerns” to consider.

“For Singapore, a non-claimant sate, our main interest is, either with or without a ruling, how do you make sure the region is still stable and to make sure you actually have mechanisms to prevent any escalations?” he said.

Carter told reporters he and his counterparts discussed improving coordination and cooperation between their militaries to keep the region’s waterways open. He said he asked the heads of the US Navy and US Coast Guard to hold a meeting with Asean partners next year to share their best practices for maritime security.



Reef debris after destruction by a Chinese super dredge

 (This    article has links to several  others related to environmental issues in the South China Sea).

A green sea turtle is seen off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii.

A green sea turtle.(Reuters)

 (Includes Obama creates largest ocean reserve, takes heat for new federal decrees)

 (Has links to many related conservation and environmental articles)

 (Rupert Wingfield-Hayes reports)

Chinese coast guard ship

 (August 25, 2016)

 (Contains links to several related articles)

An elderly Vietnamese protester holds a placard during an anti-China protest in front of the Chinese consulate in the financial district of Manila on May 16, 2014. Several hundred Filipino and Vietnamese protesters united in a march in the Philippine capital on May 16, demanding that China stop oil drilling in disputed South China Sea waters. Many Vietnamese remain uneasy with China in the South china sea till this day.  AFP PHOTO/TED ALJIBE (Photo credit should read TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)