For most Singaporeans, MINDEF and the SAF included, the detention of our Terrexes by Hong Kong authorities was a low point in 2016 from the defence perspective. The SAF will learn from this episode and has already changed its practices to better protect our assets. But all of us are of course upset that the Terrexes, our property, have not been returned to Singapore. We have been working at all levels of Government these past two months to effect their return, quietly and out of the limelight where it is more effective.
I will say more in the next Parliament sitting, but we should view that incident in its proper context.
The Terrex issue does not pose an existential threat or even a potential threat as say, terrorism does today. And the SAF must not lose focus or allow that one issue to dominate all else. Neither should Singaporeans allow this one incident to shake our confidence or weaken our solidarity. We are a sovereign and independent country, and we will chart our own future.
When we look back at 2016, there were significant achievements that have strengthened our security. Over 50 years, we have built up strong partnerships across the world, and have achieved a high standing in the international community. Our relations with countries like the US, China and India are fundamentally strong and healthy. We may not see eye to eye on every issue, but that is the norm of bilateral relations between any two independent and sovereign nations. More importantly, with these countries, both sides value the mutual benefits that arise from strong bilateral ties and want to enhance these ties, not make them worse.
Our defence ties with other countries through the FPDA and ADMM-Plus are also strong and growing. We signed a landmark agreement with Australia that will provide more space and time for the SAF to train. Locally, the NDP was held for the first time in the new National Stadium and we mourned the passing of our beloved former President Mr S R Nathan.
All in all, Singapore has been protected and Singaporeans kept safe. We enter 2017 with uncertainties about the global economy, international politics and regional security, and the ongoing threat of terrorism. But if we stay vigilant, united and support each other, we will draw strength and overcome all challenges that come our way.