Maritime dispute: Singapore does not agree with Malaysia's 'cease and desist' proposal

Maritime dispute: Singapore does not agree with Malaysia's 'cease and desist' proposal

Singapore Malaysia Johor waters
File photo of tankers in the Strait of Singapore on May 22, 2016. (REUTERS/Henning Gloystein)

SINGAPORE: Singapore does not agree with Malaysia's proposal for both countries to "cease and desist" from sending assets into a "disputed area", Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said in response to media queries on Friday (Dec 7).

The comments came shortly after Malaysian Foreign Affairs Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said on Friday that Malaysia had proposed to Singapore that both countries "cease and desist" from sending assets into what it called a "disputed area" from midnight on Dec 8.

Singapore has received Malaysia's diplomatic note and "will respond in due course", said an MFA spokesperson.

The two countries have traded statements following intrusions of Malaysian government vessels into Singapore's territorial waters off Tuas.
 
The intrusions come after Malaysia extended its Johor Bahru port limits in October - a move that Singapore has called a "serious violation" of its sovereignty and international law.

READ: Singapore, Malaysia maritime dispute: A timeline

READ: Singapore lodges 'strong protest' over extension of Johor Bahru port limits

Singapore remains ready to discuss the issue with Malaysia "in a constructive manner in the spirit of preserving our important bilateral relationship", the MFA spokesperson said on Friday.

"However, Singapore does not agree with Malaysia’s proposal for both countries to cease and desist from sending assets into the disputed area.

"As Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan told Malaysian Minister Saifuddin Abdullah on 5 December 2018, Malaysian government vessels have repeatedly intruded into Singapore territorial waters following the purported extension of the port limits of Johor Bahru Port on 25 October 2018," added the spokesperson. 

These vessels should "forthwith cease these provocative violations of Singapore sovereignty and return to the status quo ante before 25 October 2018, without prejudice to our respective positions on maritime boundary claims in the area", the spokesperson said.

"Attempts to create facts on the ground add nothing to Malaysia’s legal case and are unhelpful for an amicable resolution of our maritime boundary issues."

Illustration showing Singapore's extended port limits, which took effect on Dec 6, 2018.

There have been 14 intrusions by Malaysian government vessels in Singapore territorial waters in the last two weeks, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said at a media briefing on Thursday.

Earlier on Friday, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli had called Malaysia's extension of the Johor Bahru port limits a "sudden unilateral move" that threatens Singapore's sovereignty, and stressed that Singapore would not hesitate to defend its sovereignty if it were threatened.

Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen also warned Malaysian government vessels in Singapore waters to leave the area.

Singapore has lodged a "strong protest" with Malaysia over the extension of its port limits, and asked that its neighbour amend a gazette notification through which the changes were announced in October.

The country also extended its own port limits off Tuas on Thursday in a tit-for-tat move that Malaysia said it has protested through the Singaporean High Commissioner to Malaysia.

Source: CNA/nc(hm)

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