Singapore

Singapore tells Malaysia to stop intrusions into its waters

Minister tells Malaysian counterpart that 'provocative intrusions' into territorial waters must stop

Singapore told Malaysia yesterday to stop its "provocative intrusions" into the Republic's territorial waters off Tuas as the disagreements between the two countries appeared to sharpen.

In turn, Malaysia lodged two protest notes with Singapore, objecting to the new flight procedures that will be implemented for Seletar Airport next month and asserting that the new Johor Baru port limits were within its own territorial waters - a claim that Singapore had rejected earlier.

Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan outlined Singapore's stance in a phone call to his Malaysian counterpart Saifuddin Abdullah and stressed there was an urgent need to avoid escalating tensions on the ground and to comply with international law, Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said in a statement.

These developments came a day after simmering disputes between Singapore and Malaysia over territorial waters and airspace management came to light.

Neither side took a step back yesterday. Malaysian Transport Minister Anthony Loke said Singapore's claims that the new Johor Baru port limits encroached into Singapore waters were inaccurate.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad also said that Malaysia was still within its own waters with the extension.

Refuting this, the Ministry of Transport (MOT) said that Singapore's territorial waters extend westward of its current port limits around Tuas.

"Accordingly, the purported extension of the Johor Baru port limits encroaches into Singapore's territorial waters in the area and is a serious violation of Singapore's sovereignty and international law," the MOT spokesman added.

The extension has resulted in vessels from the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency and Marine Department Malaysia making repeated incursions into Singapore's waters over the past two weeks.

During his call to Datuk Saifuddin, Dr Balakrishnan also touched on the discussions on airspace issues between Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan and Mr Loke.

Two days ago, citing sovereignty, Mr Loke had said Malaysia intends to reclaim the management of the airspace over Southern Johor, which has been delegated to Singapore. Mr Khaw had said management of skies had nothing to do with sovereignty.

Emphasising that Singapore respected Malaysia's sovereignty, Dr Balakrishnan also told Mr Saifuddin that it was in the "interest of both countries to ensure the safety of civil aviation over our skies".

Dr Balakrishnan also told his counterpart "that Singapore and Malaysia should continue to discuss these issues constructively".

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