Malaysia did not ‘intrude’ into Singapore’s territorial waters as the new Johor Baru port limits was within Malaysia’s territory, Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said on Wednesday (Dec 5).
“We can measure to see if it is true or not but we had not touched their border,” he said.
“We are still within our own waters,” Dr Mahathir told reporters on the sidelines of an event in Selangor.
Singapore’s transport ministry (MOT) said on Tuesday (Dec 4) Malaysia’s government vessels have repeatedly intruded into Singapore’s territorial waters off Tuas over the past two weeks.
SINGAPORE REFUTES MAHATHIR’S CLAIMS
In response, MOT reiterated that Singapore’s territorial waters (STW) “do extend westward” of STW’s current port limits around Tuas.
“Accordingly, the purported extension of the Johor Bahru port limits encroaches into Singapore’s territorial waters in the area and is a serious violation of Singapore’s sovereignty and international law.”
SINGAPORE CLAIMS “INACCURATE”: MALAYSIA
Earlier on Wednesday (Dec 5), Malaysia’s Transport Minister Anthony Loke said Singapore’s claims were “inaccurate”.
Loke said that despite Singapore carrying out extensive land reclamation off Tuas, the “territorial sea of Singapore remains unchanged, even when reclamation has been carried out almost to the outer limits of Singapore’s territorial sea.”
“As such, the altered port limits of Johor Bahru Port are in Malaysia’s territorial sea and it is well within Malaysia’s right to draw any port limit in its territorial sea, in accordance with national laws”, he said.
ACTION BY SINGAPORE A “BREACH OF SOVEREIGNTY”: MALAYSIA
Loke blames the Port Marine Circular issued by the Maritime Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) on Nov 30, 2018, for violating Malaysia’s sovereignty and international law.
“It is precisely these actions by Singapore that amount to serious violations of Malaysia’s sovereignty and international law and are unconducive to good bilateral relations, causing confusion for the international shipping community, leading to increased navigational and safety risks to all parties,” he added.
Loke wants MPA to “immediately withdraw” the circular and prevent its enforcement agencies from further “intruding into Malaysia’s territorial sea” and “harassing vessels and persons lawfully permitted by Malaysian laws and authorities.”
Malaysia’s Attorney General’s Chambers (MAGC) and the Marine Department Malaysia (MDM) first announced the new port limits in Johor Bahru on 25 October 2018, through a federal gazette, “Declaration of Alteration of Port Limits for Johore Bahru Port”.
In response to the gazette, the Maritime Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) wrote in a circular to mariners released Nov 30, 2018, that it “does not recognise the port limits…ship masters and owners of vessels should therefore disregard the Gazette Notification.”
“WE STAND BY OUR POSITION”: MALAYSIA
“It is important that we have made our position very clear. We stand by our position.”
Loke was responding today (Dec 6), to a question on what action will Malaysia take in view of the disagreement between Malaysia and Singapore on both the port and airspace issues.
Malaysia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs had sent two protest notes to Singapore yesterday (Dec 5).
According to Loke, the foreign affairs ministries of both countries will continue to engage with each other.
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