BEIJING (Reuters) – The Global Times, China’s nationalist state-owned tabloid, has warned that Singapore’s “hypocrisy” over its military relationship with Taiwan could harm bilateral relations with China, according to an op-ed published on Monday.
Nine Singaporean armored troop carriers were impounded in Hong Kong last week en route back from Taiwan, sparking a rebuke from China’s foreign ministry about maintaining military ties with Taipei.
“It is no longer reasonable for Singapore to continue… any kind of military exchange with Taiwan,” said an opinion article in the paper, written by a commentator identified only as Ai Jun, which is a homonym for “love the army”.
Singapore and Taiwan have a longstanding military relationship that began in the 1970s and involves Taiwan being used as grounds for Singaporean infantry training.
Beijing has grudgingly tolerated this agreement since the China and Singapore re-established diplomatic relations in the 1990s.
The incident with the armored troop carriers “adds to the suspicion” that Singapore is working against the “one China” principle, said the paper.
Beijing views Taiwan as a breakaway province that should be brought back under its rule, by force if necessary.
The article, which only appeared in the paper’s English-language edition, went on to list Singapore’s military relations with the United States and its stance on the South China Sea as further demonstrating this “hypocrisy”.
Singapore is aiding the United States in a China containment strategy by allowing U.S. forces to be stationed at the Changi Naval Base, it added.
“If public opinion about Singapore changes in China, it will turn into a huge blow for bilateral ties,” concluded the paper.
The Global Times, which is published by the official party newspaper, the People’s Daily, has a history of writing strident editorials and is usually significantly more hawkish than the government’s official line.
In September, the paper embarked on a war of words with Singapore’s ambassador to China, Stanley Loh, over a report that said Singapore had raised the South China Sea at summit in Venezuela, which the ambassador denied.
China has repeatedly warned Singapore against getting involved in the territorial dispute in which China asserts sovereignty over waters and islands claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.
Singapore has no claims, but as the biggest port in Southeast Asia, the city-state’s open economy depends on continued free navigation in the area.
(Reporting by Christian Shepherd; Editing by Lincoln Feast)