Singapore’s Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan tells Malaysian vessels to “back off” from the Republic’s maritime territory “while we pursue sit-down dialogues” as bilateral disputes escalate

Singapore’s Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan tells Malaysian vessels to “back off” from the Republic’s maritime territory “while we pursue sit-down dialogues” as bilateral disputes escalate

Singapore’s Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan has issued a stern warning against Malaysian vessels allegedly encroaching the territorial waters of Singapore, and declared that the Republic will not hesitate to take “firm actions” against further intrusions.

In a statement on Thursday (6 Dec), Mr Khaw added that in response to the “provocative action on the part of Malaysia”, Singapore will be extending port limits “within Singapore Territorial Waters” under the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (Port Limits) (Amendment) Notification 2018 with immediate effect.

He elaborated that the extension “tracks the eastern boundary of the 1999 Johor Bahru Port Limits”.

“It is… a reaction to this provocative action on the part of Malaysia, but we do it properly, in accordance with international law, and certainly do not infringe on our neighbour’s rights.”

Mr Khaw also claimed that there have been “14 intrusions” by Malaysian vessels into Singapore’s maritime boundaries, with three vessels still present in Singapore as of Wednesday (5 Dec).

“Singapore had protested the repeated intrusions via three TPNs [Third Person Notes]”, said the minister, and highlighted that Singapore has urged Malaysia to “cease their intrusions and return to the status quo before 25 Oct 2018”.

“My main message today is… Back off. Leave our waters while we pursue sit-down dialogues and try to resolve it.”

“Our security agencies will continue to patrol the area, and respond to unauthorised activities on the ground. They have so far responded with restraint against aggressive actions by the Malaysian Government vessels,” said Mr Khaw.

Previously on 25 Oct, Malaysia had issued a government gazette announcing the extension of Johor Bahru’s port limits, which Singapore claims has encroached into Singapore’s territorial waters off Tuas.

However, Bernama reported on Thursday (6 Dec) that the Malaysian government has declared its “right to draw any port limit in its territorial sea in accordance with Malaysia’s own national laws.”

“As such, the government of Malaysia refutes the view that Malaysia’s government vessels had intruded into Singapore territorial waters off Tuas,” Wisma Putra said.

Mr Khaw disputed the Malaysian government’s claim, stating: “In 1979, when Malaysia published its map, it did not consult Singapore before drawing its territorial claim line. In fact, in 1979 no reclamation at Tuas had taken place.

“So the Malaysian unilateral territorial claim of 1979 (which we do not recognise) could not possibly have taken into account any reclamation by Singapore,” stressed Mr Khaw.

Singapore’s maritime enforcement agencies’ intrusion of Malaysia’s waters “unconducive to good bilateral relations”, “lead to increased navigational and safety risks to all parties”: Malaysian Transport Minister Anthony Loke

Bloomberg reported Mr Loke as saying on Wednesday (5 Dec) that Malaysia’s deployment of its government enforcement agencies such as the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency and the Marine Department of Malaysia has not violated international law, and has not resulted in intrusion of Singapore’s waters.

Consequently, Mr Loke reminded Singapore’s maritime enforcement agencies to cease intruding into Malaysia’s waters.

“These actions by Singapore amount to serious violations of Malaysia’s sovereignty and international law, and are unconducive to good bilateral relations,” said Mr Loke, adding that such intrusions “cause confusion for the international shipping community, and lead to increased navigational and safety risks to all parties”.

Previously on Wednesday (5 Dec), Singapore’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan urged Malaysia to “cease” ongoing “provocative intrusions” by the neighbouring nation’s vessels into Singapore’s maritime territory in order to “avoid escalating tensions on the ground” and to remain compliant “with international law”.

In a press release by Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which detailed a phone conversation between Dr Balakrishnan and his Malaysian counterpart Saifuddin Abdullah on the same day, Dr Balakrishnan spoke about “Malaysia’s recent purported extension of the Johor Bahru Port Limits (JPL)”, which he claimed has encroached into “Singapore Territorial Waters off Tuas”.

Dr Balakrishnan added, according to the statement by MFA, 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”.

Berita Harian Online, a Malay-medium mainstream Malaysian news outlet, reported on Wednesday (5 Dec) that Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has given the assurance that the JPL does not trespass or encroach into Singapore’s maritime borders in Tuas.

Dr Mahathir added that Malaysia will ensure that the port’s expansion will be carried out at the nation’s borders, and that the borders can be measured to verify the accusations made by Singapore.

Malaysia to hold a meeting with Singapore over airspace territorial issues raised by the former, on top of discussing maritime boundary issues raised by Singapore

Bernama reported that Putrajaya has proposed to hold a meeting with Singapore in a bid to resolve the ongoing territorial disputes surrounding the maritime and airspace borders of Malaysia and Singapore.

Following Malaysia’s objection to the new flight paths and the Instrument Landing System (ILS) being put in place by Singapore from Seletar Airport, which was raised by Malaysia’s Transport Minister Anthony Loke in Parliament on Tuesday (4 Dec), Wisma Putra indicated that the upcoming meeting will involve efforts to find a solution to the ILS problem.

In his statement in Parliament on Tuesday, Mr Loke cited the possibility of the new flight paths and the ILS stunting the development around the industrial Pasir Gudang area in Johor as the reason for objecting Singapore’s move.

He added that Singapore had proceeded to broadcast the ILS on 1 Dec without Malaysia’s consent, and despite being notified of Malaysia’s objection twice on 28 and 29 Nov, adding that the implementation of the ILS without Malaysia’s permission violates the principle of national sovereignty as accorded under the Convention of Civil Aviation 1944.

The Straits Times reported Mr Loke as saying: “It is not our stance to take a confrontational approach with any party, much less our neighbours. But this involves our sovereignty, which the Malaysian government will defend in the strongest terms. This involves our airspace which we will defend, and the interest of Johoreans.”

In a separate statement, according to Bloomberg, Mr Loke said that the Malaysian government aims to put forth a counter-proposal to the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) regarding the new flight paths.

“Our position is loud and clear, the instrument landing system landing approach toward Pasir Gudang is a no-no to us,” he said.

Malaysian daily Malay Mail reported that the Malaysian government, in a bid to reclaim the nation’s airspace between next year and 2023, will be sending a protest note to the Republic over Singapore’s decision to operate its instrument landing system (ILS) for the Seletar Airport near the border with Johor despite Malaysia’s protests.

Mr Loke was also reported as saying in Parliament on Monday (3 Dec) that Putrajaya has prohibited Singapore from broadcasting the new ILS at the end of last month to “protect the sovereignty of airspace and development around Pasir Gudang in Johor.”

His Singaporean counterpart, however, said that he found it “kind of strange” for the neighbouring nation to flag concerns over the ILS.

“There have always been flights up north, so the procedures take into account existing entities in Pasir Gudang,” said Singapore’s Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan in a media statement.

Mr Khaw added that the new flight paths are in line with current flight paths into Seletar, adding that the flight paths have been utilised for decades and are in line with International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) standards.

Singapore’s Ministry of Transport (MOT) revealed, according to The Straits Times, that the ILS procedures have been relayed to the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM) in December last year.

“However, despite repeated reminders, we received no substantive response from CAAM until late November 2018,” said the ministry.

MOT added that the new system will not “impose any additional impact on other airspace users as well as businesses and residents in Johor”.

The ministry’s rationale behind implementing the ILS is to increase safety and precision for pilots approaching the runway and the airport in general via instruments rather than by sight alone.

The implementation of the system is a part of the turboprop operations from Changi Airport to Seletar Airport.

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