‘Urgent need’ for Malaysia to stop intrusions into Singapore’s Territorial Waters: Balakrishnan

Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan delivers his speech during the opening ceremony of the 51st ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting in Singapore, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Yong Teck Lim)

Singapore Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan has stressed the “urgent need” for Malaysia to cease its intrusions into Singapore Territorial Waters off Tuas in a phone conversation with his Malaysian counterpart.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in Singapore said in a statement that Dr Balakrishnan spoke to Malaysian Minister of Foreign Affairs Saifuddin Abdullah about the issue on Wednesday, calling for compliance with international law and to avoid escalating tensions on the ground.

Dr Balakrishnan raised the issue of Malaysia’s recent purported extension of the Johor Bahru Port Limits (JPL), which encroach into the Republic’s Territorial Waters off Tuas.

“Minister Balakrishnan noted that the JPL now extends beyond even the limits of Malaysia’s territorial sea claim in the area, as set out in Malaysia’s own 1979 map, which Singapore has never accepted. Minister Balakrishnan said that despite Singapore’s diplomatic protests, there had been a series of provocative intrusions by Malaysian Government Vessels into Singapore Territorial Waters off Tuas,” the MFA said.

Balakrishnan also referred to the discussions on airspace issues between Singapore’s Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan and his Malaysian counterpart Anthony Loke, as well as the latter’s comments on the issue.

Singapore respected Malaysia’s sovereignty and it was in the interest of both countries to ensure the safety of civil aviation over their skies, Balakrishnan emphasised. Any proposal should ensure the safety and efficiency of civilian air traffic, and be in accordance with the standards and procedures of International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

“Minister Balakrishnan said that Singapore and Malaysia should continue to discuss these issues constructively and emphasised the importance of maintaining a good bilateral relationship between close neighbours and compliance with international law,” the MFA statement added.

The statement comes a day after the Ministry of Transport (MOT) said on Tuesday that Singapore has lodged a “strong protest” with the Malaysian government over the purported extension of the JPL encroaching into Singapore’s waters.

In a separate statement on Wednesday, MOT also responded to the claim by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad that the JPL has not “touched” Singapore’s border.

It reiterated that the JPL extension is “a serious violation of Singapore’s sovereignty and international law”.

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