September 22, 2002
Singapore navy boats visit Taiwan
Singapore military ties now a `threat'
SINGAPORE has decided to move to China at least part of the military training facilities it has had in Taiwan for more than two decades, a source close to the military and a lawmaker said Sunday, September 22.
The issue was raised during a visit to the island last week by Singapore Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew, the source said.
"The Ministry of National Defense was unhappy with the decision that Singapore is to move its training bases to China's Hainan Island," he said.
"But we are still not sure if they want a partial pullout, a downgrade of the program, or a scrapping of the entire one," he said.
Under a military cooperative program known as "Operation Hsing Kuang" (Starlight), Singapore has operated three military training camps in Taiwan since 1975.
Singapore recognises China but maintains close links with Taiwan which Beijing regards as part of its territory awaiting reunification.
Peter Lin, parliamentarian from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), confirmed the planned move.
"Some sort of decision has already been made although the government has tried its last-ditch efforts" to persuade Singapore not to move its military training facilities, Lin told AFP.
He declined to provide details "for the sake of national interests."
Lin warned his government this year that rival China had offered to provide Singapore with military training facilities as part of Beijing's attempt to sabotage the city-state's ties with Taiwan.
The issue was first unveiled by London-based Jane's Defense Weekly last year.
The publication said Singapore had been reluctant to accept the offer, the first to a foreign country by China, for fear of changing its current arrangement with Taiwan.
Lee visited Taiwan for four days last week after a trip to Beijing. He met with Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian, Premier Yu Shyi-kun and Taiwan's China policy decision-maker Tsai Ing-wen.
Taiwan sent air force and naval officers to Singapore during the city state's early years of independence after 1965.