Two events happened at the end of 2016.
On Nov 23, nine SAF Terrex infantry carrier vehicles, en route from Taiwan to Singapore, were seized in Hong Kong. The Chinese foreign ministry pretty much confirmed they were behind it by warning Singapore not to engage in official exchanges with Taiwan. China oversees Hong Kong’s foreign and defence policies.
Until now, the Terrexes have not been returned. Although Singapore “communicated its formal position”, Hong Kong Customs have not even given an official reason for why they were seized. The big bully continued to hold us hostage.
Meanwhile on Dec 15, China seized a drone belonging to the US Navy in the South China Sea. Within days when the Americans cried foul, Beijing was quick to accede to them. On Dec 22, China returned the drone intact after “friendly consultations”. Even after President-elect Trump said they could keep it!
Why the difference? Well, the US military is the most powerful military in the world. They spend $601 billion a year on their military, much more than China’s $216 billion, and in fact more than the next nine militaries combined.Their military superiority is beyond doubt. The Chinese know it.
Singapore? We spend $9.5 billion a year on our military. We’re a tiny nation that China probably thinks they can overrun in a week. Why should they respond to our protests?
What the two incidents drive home is this – power comes from the barrel of the gun. If we do not have the military to back us, our best diplomatic efforts won’t get us anywhere. How esle would countries like Indonesia and Malaysia treat us as equal? Is it enough to count on the goodwill of our friendly neighbours? I think it’s best we arm ourselves well and that allows us to speak softly.
Come to think of it, Paul Tambyah and SDP, you still want to cut defence spending by 40%?