Singapore's defense minister said Monday that nine armored vehicles seized in Hong Kong could not be detained or confiscated, but that he welcomed Hong Kong's pledge that the dispute would be handled in line with the its laws.

Hong Kong customs seized the troop carriers in November as they were being shipped from Taiwan to Singapore after military exercises on the island that Beijing regards as a breakaway province, sparking tension between Singapore and China.

Beijing, which regained sovereignty over the former British colony of Hong Kong in 1997, then warned countries against maintaining military ties with Taiwan.