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April 24, 2017

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Hong Kong to return 9 SAF Terrex vehicles to Singapore

Authorities in Hong Kong will soon release nine Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) armored vehicles that they have impounded and detained since November, the city-state said on Tuesday.

In a statement, Singapore's foreign affairs ministry said Hong Kong authorities would release the SAF Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles and other equipment to the city-state, ending two months of the diplomatic row that brought relations between Singapore and China to their lowest point.

The statement said the notification came in a reply by Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to a letter from Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

"This is a positive outcome," it said. "Prime Minister Lee has replied to Chief Executive Leung to thank him for Hong Kong's cooperation in resolving this matter."

It was not immediately known if Singapore had promised anything for the return of the vehicles seized by Hong Kong customs in November -- an action believed to have been instructed by China, which was upset by Singapore's support of the United States over the sensitive South China Sea dispute.

Hong Kong customs seized the armored vehicles in November as they were being shipped to Singapore from Taiwan following a military drill aimed at practising the combat readiness of Singaporean troops being trained in Taiwan as part of a long-term military cooperation program known as "Starlight Project."

Beijing, which considers Taiwan its territory, has warned other countries against forging ties or having military exchanges with Taipei.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong's top customs official Roy Tang said the vehicles were detained "because there was a suspected breach of the Hong Kong law".

The investigations into the episode over a possible breach of laws governing the import and export of strategic commodities "might lead to criminal prosecution," Tang added.

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