SINGAPORE: Singapore said on Wednesday (Dec 5) that its territorial waters extend westward of its current port limits around Tuas, reiterating that Malaysia's extension of the Johor Bahru port limits is a "serious violation" of Singapore's sovereignty and international law.
It was responding to comments made by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who said that Malaysia has not "touched" Singapore's border.
“We can measure to see if it is true or not but we had not touched their border," said Dr Mahathir on the sidelines of an event in Selangor. “We are still within our own waters."
In a statement on Wednesday, Singapore's Ministry of Transport (MOT) said: "Singapore reiterates that Singapore’s territorial waters do extend westward of our 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.”
On Tuesday, MOT said that Singapore has lodged a "strong protest" with the Malaysian government over its move to extend the Johor Bahru port limits "in a manner which encroaches into Singapore's territorial waters off Tuas".
The changes were announced on Oct 25 through Malaysia's Federal Government Gazette, which Singapore wants Malaysia to amend "to reflect the sovereignty of Singapore over the waters in question".
MOT had also said that Malaysian vessels have repeatedly intruded into Singapore's territorial waters off Tuas over the past two weeks.
It added that Singapore has requested that Malaysia refrain from taking any further unilateral action, warning that the actions by its neighbour are "a serious violation of Singapore’s sovereignty and international law".
Singapore stands ready to engage with Malaysia to resolve these matters amicably, in accordance with international law, said MOT in its statement.
Earlier on Wednesday, Malaysia's Transport Minister Anthony Loke said Singapore's claims were "inaccurate".
"The altered port limits for Johor Bahru Port has not in any way encroached into any part of Singapore," said Mr Loke in a media statement. "Malaysia has always had and continues to have sovereignty over the waters within the port limits for Johor Bahru Port."
He noted that even when reclamation work is done by Singapore, the territorial sea of Singapore remains unchanged in accordance with international law.
"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 our territorial sea in accordance with our own national laws," said Mr Loke.
"It is also within Malaysia’s right as a sovereign state to deploy its enforcement and relevant competent agencies in its territorial sea.
"This practice is fully consistent with international law and, as such, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency and the Marine Department of Malaysia have not intruded into any of part of Singapore," he added.
Singapore's Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said on Tuesday that he had previously raised the issue of maritime borders with Mr Loke.
"Minister Anthony Loke told me it was a move on the part of their foreign affairs (ministry), and that their ministry will reply to us. But while waiting for the response, which didn't come, in fact, they escalated actions," Mr Khaw told reporters.
"They went on to publish a port circular and a few weeks later, a mariners note - instructions to the shipping community about their new boundaries - so we issued a second TPN (Third Person Note)," he added.
"We hope that good sense will prevail because if we carry on like this, certainly it's not conducive."
Mr Loke said on Wednesday that Malaysia is prepared to engage with Singapore through appropriate diplomatic channels to find an amicable resolution on the matter.