Deputy minister: Malaysia not escalating tensions with Singapore, but no compromise on position either

Liew Chin Tong speaks during a forum at Sunway University in Subang Jaya December 11, 2018. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Liew Chin Tong speaks during a forum at Sunway University in Subang Jaya December 11, 2018. — Picture by Choo Choy May

SUBANG JAYA, Dec 11 — Malaysia does not intend to fight “fire with fire” and escalate tensions with Singapore amid maritime and airspace disputes, Liew Chin Tong said today.

But the deputy defence minister also said the government is not going to budge from its position or demands.

“The Prime Minister and Foreign Minister have said they want to de-escalate the situation. We don’t want to get into any further escalation and heighten the issue.

“There is no interest in increasing the conflict. We are not going to fight fire with fire.

“While Singapore is not budging, Malaysia is also not budging,” he told reporters when met after the “New Malaysia Rising: The Challenge of Fulfilling the Dream” forum.

Liew said the government will proceed with negotiations between the two countries to find a solution to the conflict.

“We will leave it to the negotiations between both countries. We don't want to enter into a verbal confrontation with Singapore.

“The Foreign Minister has already set up a timetable and Singapore has taken its preference for time (to resolve it), he said.

Yesterday, the Foreign Affairs Ministry said it will take measures to de-escalate the situation with Singapore over the Johor Bahru Port border alteration issue, which the city-state claims currently encroaches into its waters.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had said Malaysian vessels will stay put in the disputed waters along the Malaysia-Singapore maritime border.

He said they will continue to be there until the negotiation process on the maritime border between the two countries is settled.