SINGAPORE: Two Malaysian ships remain in Singapore’s territorial waters, said Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan on Monday (Dec 17), reiterating that this is not conducive to next month’s discussions between the two countries.
Mr Khaw had said in a previous update last Wednesday that one ship was in Singapore’s waters, and that Malaysia had taken steps to de-escalate tensions on the ground.
“I don't think it's a question of counting one, two, three. Our preference - in fact that's what we urged them to do - is to withdraw all the ships because it is not conducive,” Mr Khaw told reporters on Monday on the sidelines of an event relating to the upgrade of the North East Line.
“First, it's not necessary, it doesn't make a difference to your legal claim. And we continue to worry about risk because we have two ships facing each other, and who knows, accidents can happen. It may not be intended, but if something happens, it's very troublesome. Unfortunately, they do not agree to withdraw."
Representatives from Singapore and Malaysia are scheduled to meet in the second week of January to discuss the maritime dispute, and Mr Khaw said Singapore intends to negotiate “in good faith”.
“We are gearing up for this discussion. We intend to go into the discussion and negotiate in good faith. We hope good sense will prevail,” Mr Khaw said.
“We want a peaceful, calm, professional management of this whole dispute. If this (view) is shared by both sides, I’m quite sure we can work out some win-win solutions.”
The maritime dispute was sparked by Malaysia's decision to extend the Johor Bahru port limits in October, and the subsequent intrusion of Malaysian government vessels in Singapore waters.
Singapore, in response, lodged a “strong protest” with the Malaysian government, and requested that Malaysia refrain from taking any further unilateral action.
Both countries also have a separate dispute over airspace arrangements in southern Johor.
When asked if the airspace issue will be discussed next month, Mr Khaw said: “I am quite sure it will be on the agenda.”
Malaysia had announced earlier this month that it wants to reclaim its "delegated airspace" in southern Johor, citing concerns over sovereignty and national interest.
It had at the same time objected to Singapore's publication of the Instrument Landing System (ILS) procedures for Seletar Airport, saying that it would restrict the construction of tall buildings at Johor's Pasir Gudang.