Singapore Foreign Minister hopes for constructive discussion over territorial matters with Malaysia

Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan has said Malaysia and his country should continue to discuss territorial issues constructively. — TODAY file pic
Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan has said Malaysia and his country should continue to discuss territorial issues constructively. — TODAY file pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 5 – Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan has said that Malaysia and his country should continue to discuss territorial issues constructively and maintain a good bilateral relationship in compliance with international law.

A statement on the Singapore Foreign Ministry’s website said Balakrishnan had put this message across to his Malaysian counterpart, Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, via a telephone conversation today.

The statement said Balakrishnan had raised the issue of Malaysia’s recent purported extension of the Johor Bahru Port Limits (JPL), which he alleged encroached into Singapore Territorial Waters off Tuas.

He also 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.

“Minister Balakrishnan stressed the urgent need for Malaysia to cease these intrusions so as to comply with international law and to avoid escalating tensions on the ground,” the Foreign Ministry said.

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

“Minister Balakrishnan emphasised that Singapore respected Malaysia’s sovereignty. Minister Balakrishnan said that it was in the interest of both countries to ensure the safety of civil aviation over our skies.

“Any proposal should ensure that the safety and efficiency of civilian air traffic was not compromised, and remained in accordance with ICAO standards, processes, and procedures,” the statement read, referring to the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

The Malaysian  government has sought  to reclaim its airspace in phases between 2019 and 2023, after allowing Singapore to use the delegated airspace in southern Johor since 1974.

In addition, it will also send Singapore a protest note over the latter’s decision to operate its instrument landing system (ILS) for the Seletar Airport near the border with Johor, despite opposition by Malaysia.

Loke  said in Parliament on Monday  that Putrajaya has disallowed Singapore from broadcasting the new ILS on November 28 and 29 this year, in order to protect the sovereignty of airspace and development around Pasir Gudang in Johor.

He also stated that Singapore had broadcasted the ILS on December 1, 2018 and will be enforced on January 3, 2019 without the agreement of the Malaysian government.

This is against the principle of national sovereignty as accorded under the Convention of Civil Aviation 1944, he said.