Monday, January 9, 2017

Terrexes discussed in Parliament

The PM has wrote CY Leung. Defence minister clarified that detention of our ICVs by Hong Kong is against international law but I don't think he explained how this can be decisively resolved under the law. To me it is clear that the Chinese has the opportunity to detain these vehicles at Xiamen but chose to task HK to do it instead. That is a big hint of how this issue would play out. China is sending us a message and hedging it so that heads or tails they win.

The Chinese are prepared and ready to go beyond words and act. Their activities around the region in particular the port that they are developing with Malaysia in Malacca is not based on commercial calculations but probably geopolitical and military.

I had guessed that we would have to wait for a long time to get our Terrexes back. If we are powerful we would have gotten it back as the US navy had their drone fished out illegally by the Chinese navy. But we are a little Red Dot.

Like any small country, Singapore foreign policy only work when mostly the rule of law prevails. I do not know for how long we have the power to act on our interest without submitting to the coercion of a big power. The Chinese are determined to drive out the US navy from the East Pacific probably all the way to the second island chain. The Americans do not seem as determined to resist the Chinese as they are resolute to realize their ambition. Without the TPP the cost of a significant military presence to the US will eventually become prohibitive. The ebb and flow of US politics will inevitably create opportunities for the Chinese to incrementally gain control of the seas in this region imperiling our livelihood as we know it, i.e., to live we have to accept Chinese suzerainty. Look at HK and you know it is a terrible idea. Note that the Chinese never tried hard enough to make an attractive and shining example out of HK to attract Taiwan to return to the fold. Of course the Taiwanese watching developments would resist the mainland for as long as possible. They know life under Beijing cannot be better than self rule. 

The only way for us to maintain our independence is as we had done before: Bold farsightedness. Meanwhile what we need to do is to counter Chinese "Slow burn" strategy against us of wearing us down slowly. 

Detaining our Terrexes would not be their last unfriendly act. We can expect them to push and poke us harder. We have to figure out how to respond and show them it is a waste of time. On hindsight it is easy to foresee their action on our ICVs. We have failed to read them accurately. If we had shipped those vehicles directly back to SG the Chinese would have noticed and offer hats off to our sagacity. That would be bold foresight in action. So let's learn to anticipate better. We cannot assume but have to keep earning our right to independence. It is not easy to be friends with both America and China. 

Update: 6:10 pm

The Chinese statement is because we are publicly accusing them of violating our sovereign property rights protected under international law. They don't want to be told that but we want to remind them even without LKY we are the same people who like LKY returned the book Hua Guofeng gave him because whilst we are ready to listen to an alternative point of view, we reserve the right to hold our own view of history and events. We will not be cowed. If we must the perpetual smiling lips will part to reveal sharp and determined teeth. We have no choice if we treasure our independence. 

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