Yes, you heard it here on Sammyboy first
Right or wrong, I am advancing my theory of Mistaken Identity based on what I have seen and heard so far from Terrex incident.
I believe that China had thought that Taiwan was actually selling weapons to us, namely the Terrex AFVs, and therefore as a means to disrupt and embarrass Taiwan, they seized the Terrexes in Hong Kong. China knows that Taiwan has a sizeable army and military industry complex. They produce many of their own weapons and modify what they have. The Taiwanese would love to sell some of them weapons overseas to defray the cost of their military machine, but so far, unlike Israel, very little of their weaponry have been found overseas. Part of the reason would be the intense displeasure from Beijing towards any country that buys Taiwanese weapons. Such a country would face the full wrath of China’s economic and political sanctions which can be significant.
Now imagine, that you are a China customs and port authority. Let’s remember that they are essentially customs officers and not military intelligence officers. It’s not common to station military intelligence officers, especially those with armour knowledge, at ports for the sole purpose of monitoring very rare instances of weapons transhipments through the port. Of course you notice that there are what appears to be Armour Vehicles, 9 of them, under tarpaulin cover on board the ship. They can’t fit into a container, so they are covered with this tarpaulin, completely covered with no part of the AFV exposed. Now armour identification for APC, IFV, and any type of wheeled armour vehicle is tough as it is without the vehicle being hidden under a cover of tarpaulin. I know this because this used to be my business. Wheeled IFVs, unlike tanks, all have basically the same lay out and the same basic dimensions. Unless stated in the manifest, there is practically no way to know what type of AFV it is just from looking at it from the outside under cover. I cannot imagine the run of the mill or even senior port officials in Xiamen (the first stop on the route) knowing what it is a Terrex just by looking at the covered AFVs.
But what about the shipping documents? Wouldn’t that state what the vehicles are and who they belong to? It would accept that from all news media reports, there was some confusion over the shipping documents. This was never cleared up by any PAP official, but there was talk of missing documents, incomplete documents, etc. So what if the specific type of AFV is not anywhere on the documents or were not clearly stated? Even if the documents do state that it’s a Terrex, how would the China customs officers know it’s a Terrex? One AFV looks like another to them. They can google it, but the vehicle is so rare and not sold outside Singapore, they likely never have seen one or even heard of one. If I ask you what is an M113, or a BMP, likely you have an idea of what it is. The documents could say that it’s a Terrex, but how would they know for sure? In addition, such documents pertaining to arms sales are commonly forged, and in this case, there would have been no end user certificate as the shipping company is claiming this is not a sale.
Coupled to this is the fact that not many Chinese citizens know that we train in Taiwan. I am sure the higher officials in Beijing are aware of this, and even a fair proportion of Taiwanese are aware of this. But the fact that Singapore trains in Taiwan with heavy weaponry and armour is definitely not common knowledge in China. A manifest indicating these Terrexes belong to Singapore, but the origin of the ship is from Taiwan, would certainly cause some skepticism. Perhaps the Xiamen port authorities conveyed their suspicions to the Hong Kong authorities who were the next stop.
When the ship arrived in Hong Kong, they might have been already working on a theory that this was an arms sale from Taiwan to Singapore, and that it was disguised as a return of vehicles from training. But what vehicle could this be that the Taiwanese might sell? The answer is the CM-32 Clouded Leopard Taiwanese Infantry Fighting Vehicle (TIFV). This vehicle has the same dimensions as the Terrex because, surprise, surprise, they are developed by the same company Timoney of Ireland. Each vehicle is 7m long, and 2.7m wide. That is right, they have the exact same length and width, with the Terrex being slightly lower at 2.1m versus the CM-32 at 2.23m. From the ground up, if Hong Kong customs did measure the width and length, they would have found it to be the same as that of the Clouded Leopard. Height is much more difficult to measure accurately. Other then that the dimensions are exactly the same and under a tarp, very few military expert could tell the difference.
When the Hong Kong customs finally removed the tarp to look at the AFVs, they saw the Taiwanese military markings on the AFV, specifically the license plate. So, put yourself in the place of Hong Kong customs.
A)You have been tipped off by your counterpart in Xiamen that a suspicious shipment of AFVs from Taiwan is on its way to your port, possibly weapons sales to Singapore.
B)The shipment originates from Taiwan but the manifest say they belong to Singapore and are Terrexes. As well, there is some questions that the shipping documents were incomplete or missing on top of all the confusion. You have no way of knowing they are Terrexes because the vehicles are completely covered in tarp. But the dimensions of the vehicles from outside looks almost exactly like those of the Taiwanese Clouded Leopard IFV. This would confirm the Xiamen tip off if they are indeed Taiwanese IFVs.
C)Upon removing the tarp, you discover the Taiwanese military markings. For the simple reason that there should be English letters on the license plate of singapore vehicles as would be expected from an English speaking country, there are non. Instead, there is just one Chinese character followed by the numbers and all in blue. This further reinforces the Hong Kong suspicions that these are actually Taiwanese vehicles. i.e. looks the same, has the same dimensions as a known Taiwanese AFV, and has Taiwanese military markings on them.
D)So, they go ahead and confiscate them, thinking that they have prevented an arms sales from Taiwan to Singapore and that they have put a dent in Taiwanese military sales.
E)When it turns out that the AFVs were actually Terrex, Hong Kong now has egg on its face. Whether Beijing was informed by Hong Kong before hand is now brought into question. A quick return of the AFVs would confirm to the world that they made a mistake. SO, now in order to save face, they drag out the whole affair.
Impossible to know externally whether these are SAF Terrex of ROCA Clouded Leopard:
Externally the 2 IFVs are very similar in dimensions and lay out
CM-32 Clouded Leopard
Terrex in Hong Kong in taiwanese military license plate
Terrex in SAF markings (license plate)
Just my 2 cents