Singapore denies reports of joint
    military exercise with Taiwan

  Agence France Presse
March 22, 2005

SINGAPORE denied Tuesday, March 22, that it will hold joint military exercises with Taiwan this month.

"There is no truth to the Taiwanese media reports that the (Singapore Armed Forces) is participating in a Taiwanese joint military exercise involving foreign military consultants," the defence ministry said in a one-line statement.

Taiwan's Liberty Times newspaper reported Monday that Singapore and Taiwan would hold exercises for the first time in three decades in the southern county of Hengchun from late March to early April.

The report also said the United States and Japan would send military advisers to the exercises, including a Taiwanese motorized infantry battalion and a Singapore brigade.

Beijing on Monday demanded an explanation from Singapore while Taiwan's defense ministry declined to comment on the report.

"The Chinese side is firmly opposed to countries which have diplomatic relations with China carrying out any type of official or military contact with Taiwan," the foreign ministry in Beijing said.

It urged Singapore to "clarify" the report.

China regards Taiwan as part of its territory waiting to be reunified, by force if necessary. The two sides split at the end of a civil war in 1949.

Singapore and China have enjoyed strong bilateral relations but ties hit a rough patch last year after then deputy prime minister Lee Hsien Loong paid a visit to Taiwan shortly before being sworn in as Singapore's prime minister.

Ties have since improved after Lee reiterated his country's "One China" policy and warned Taipei against provoking China by pushing for independence.

The Singapore military periodically sends national servicemen to Taiwan and other friendly countries for training due to the city-state's limited land area.