Singapore will not allow any single issue to hijack its relationship with China, Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said on Tuesday (Nov 29).
The minister was at a Straits Times forum responding to questions on the seizure of Singapore’s Terrex armoured carriers by Hong Kong customs. The nine carriers were believed to be used in the Singapore Armed Forces’ overseas training in Taiwan.
“You all know, and everyone including China knows, that we have special arrangements with Taiwan for a long time. What we are doing there is no longer a secret, everybody knows that,” he said.
Dr Balakrishnan said Singapore has a longstanding and mutually beneficial relationship with China, though there may be disagreements from time to time.
But Singapore has been “very consistent and transparent” in the position that it takes, even if differences in perspectives emerge, he said.
On Monday, China's Foreign Ministry said that it "made representations" to Singapore over the incident.
"The Chinese government has always firmly opposed countries that have diplomatic ties with China to have any form of official exchanges with Taiwan, including military exchanges and cooperation," said foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang at a regular press briefing, adding that Beijing had asked Singapore to "stick to the One China principle".
Dr Balakrishnan reiterated Singapore’s stand that the country has not shifted from its support of the One China policy and that it values its longstanding relationships.
"One thing in Chinese culture is you never forget your old friends, people who were there with you in the beginning, people who were there with you through thick and thin, and surely in Chinese culture you appreciate this concept of loyalty to old friends," he said.
"At the same time, you know full well where I stand, and I believe in One China and we will not deviate from that, we have not changed."