The seizure of nine Singaporean military armored personnel carriers found on a ship bound from Kaohsiung to Singapore during a transit stop in Hong Kong last week came after a tip-off from China, Hong Kong media reported on Saturday.
Singapore has confirmed that the Terrex AV81 carriers belonged to its military and were “used in overseas training,” but it has not confirmed that the training mission was held in Taiwan.
The Kaohsiung customs office said the ship carrying the vehicles and other military items used by Singapore’s Armed Forces departed Kaohsiung on Tuesday last week.
Hong Kong’s Customs and Excise Department said it seized the containers holding the vehicles because it found “suspected controlled items” on board during a routine inspection.
There was widespread speculation over why China might have initiated the seizure, but many suggested that the move called into question the four decades of military cooperation between Taiwan and Singapore.
Radio Television Hong Kong cited Factwire, a Kowloon-based investigative news agency, as saying that before the Singapore-bound ship arrived in Hong Kong, it had docked at the Haitian Terminal in Xiamen, China.
Citing customs sources, Factwire reported that officials at the Chinese port found that the ship contained banned military items, but did not have a permit for them.
Hong Kong’s Customs and Excise Department then received a tip from China, encouraging it to board the ship for inspection and seize the military items, the report said.
The Singaporean Ministry of Defence has called for the vehicles to be returned “expeditiously,” describing the situation as a “delay due to a request for routine inspections by Hong Kong customs.”
The English-language South China Morning Post on Friday last week published an Associated Press report that Singapore had sent a team to Hong Kong to handle the issue.
Several Hong Kong media outlets have speculated that Beijing could use the seizure to pressure Singapore into ending its military exchanges with Taiwan.
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