Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen has warned Malaysian government vessels to leave Singapore territorial waters, in his first public comments on the bilateral maritime spat.
In a post on his Facebook page on Friday (7 December), Dr Ng said that the Republic of Singapore Navy and Police Coast Guard ships have patrolled Singapore territorial waters at Tuas for at least 20 years. But Malaysian government vessels now claim these waters as theirs and have been continually intruding since November, added the minister, who was on holiday in Japan this week.
“These are serious violations of Singapore’s sovereignty. Our security forces have acted with restraint despite continuing intrusions and provocations. Singaporeans are peace-loving, but I strongly caution violators to leave Singapore territorial waters,” Dr Ng said.
His comments come after Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan announced at a media conference on Thursday (6 December) that Singapore extended its Port Limits off Tuas with effect from the same day following Malaysia’s “blatant” maritime provocations in recent weeks.
The ongoing tensions on the waters between the two countries arose from Malaysia’s arbitrary extension of the Johor Bahru Port Limits on 25 October.
Khaw revealed that there had been 14 intrusions by Malaysian government vessels into Singapore territorial waters between 24 November and 5 December. In particular, three vessels had come in and out of Singapore’s maritime boundaries while the closest intrusion was about a kilometre from the Singapore mainland.
The Republic’s security agencies will continue to patrol the area and respond to any unauthorised activities, adding that they have exercised restraint against “aggressive actions” by the Malaysian vessels, Khaw added.