Malaysia sends 2 protest notes to Singapore over airspace and maritime disputes

Malaysia sends 2 protest notes to Singapore over airspace and maritime disputes

A view of the causeway bordering Malaysia's southern state of Johor Bahru
A view of the Causeway bordering Malaysia's southern state of Johor. (Photo: AFP)

SINGAPORE: The Malaysian government said on Wednesday (Dec 5) that it has sent two protest notes to Singapore pertaining to the airspace and maritime boundary delimitation issues currently facing both countries.

The notes were communicated through the Singapore High Commissioner to Malaysia, according to a press release from Malaysia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The first note pertains to Singapore's publication of the Instrument Landing System (ILS) and ILS Approach Procedures for Seletar Airport on Dec 1.

Malaysia's Foreign Affairs Ministry said it registered the Malaysian government's "strong objection and protest to the said publication by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) without the agreement of the Government of Malaysia".

The ILS procedure refers to an assisted navigational aviation facility at the airport that provides vertical and horizontal guidance to pilots while the flight is descending and approaching the runway. 

Malaysia had previously protested the publication of the ILS by Singapore, citing the impact of the Seletar Airport flight path on developments and shipping operations in Pasir Gudang.

READ: Singapore, Malaysia airspace dispute: What we know and timeline

However, Singapore said that the ILS simply puts on paper the existing flight paths, making safety rules clearer and more transparent.

"The unilateral act by the Government of Singapore is a violation of Malaysia's sovereignty and is an intrusion of Malaysia's sovereign airspace above its territory," Malaysia's Foreign Affairs Ministry said in the news release.

"This contradicts the principles that each State has complete and exclusive sovereignty over the airspace above its territory; and that the delegation of a State's responsibility for its air traffic services over its territory does not derogate its sovereignty.

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Malaysia therefore reiterates the call by the Government of Malaysia for the immediate withdrawal of the publication of ILS and ILS Approach Procedures for Seletar Airport by the Government of Singapore," it said.

READ: Singapore's Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan urges Malaysia to 'cease intrusions'

The second protest note pertains to the outstanding maritime boundary delimitation between Malaysia and Singapore, including the new Johore Bahru Port Limits and the recent incidents in relation to it, the ministry said.

The Malaysian government "categorically rejects" the Singapore Government's "allegation" that the move to extend the Johor Bahru port limits "has resulted in the encroachment of the port limits in Singapore's territorial waters off Tuas, or that it is a violation of Singapore's sovereignty and international law".

"The Government of Malaysia affirms that the new Johore Bahru Port Limits are within Malaysia's territorial sea.

"Further, it is well within the Government of Malaysia's 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," read the press release.

The Malaysian Ministry of Foreign Affairs maintained that it is within Malaysia's right to deploy its enforcement and implementation agencies within its territorial sea, and that the practice is "fully consistent" with international law.

"As such, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency and the Marine Department of Malaysia have not intruded into any part of Singapore's territorial waters," it said.

In the press release, the ministry also noted the "good and strong" bilateral relations between Malaysia and Singapore, and proposed a meeting between the foreign ministries of both countries to discuss "outstanding maritime boundary issues".

"It is important to avoid any acts which may lead to escalation and fuel tension," the ministry said.

"This spirit of dialogue will also inform contacts between the Ministers of Transport to resolve the ILS and delegated airspace issues."

READ: Malaysia's desire to take back airspace 'not a straightforward decision': Khaw Boon Wan


Singapore's Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan on Wednesday spoke to Malaysian counterpart Saifuddin Abdullah on the phone about both issues. 

Regarding the airspace issues, Dr Balakrishnan said Singapore respected Malaysia's sovereignty and that it was "in the interest of both countries to ensure the safety of civil aviation over our skies". 

He said the two countries "should continue to discuss these issues constructively" and emphasised the importance of maintaining a good bilateral relationship and compliance with international law. 

In the phone call, Dr Balakrishnan also referred to discussions on the Johor Bahru port limits, urging Malaysia to cease intrusions into Singapore territorial waters to avoid escalating tensions on the ground. 

Despite Singapore's diplomatic protests, there have been a "series of provocative intrusions" by Malaysian government vessels into Singapore territorial waters off Tuas, said Dr Balakrishnan. 

He then stressed the "urgent need" for Malaysia to "cease these intrusions".

Source: CNA/aa(aj)