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Singapore stands ready to 'robustly defend' sovereignty over Pedra Branca: MFA

Singapore stands ready to 'robustly defend' sovereignty over Pedra Branca: MFA

The International Court of Justice ruled in 2008 that Singapore had sovereignty over Pedra Branca. (File photo: CNA/Calvin Seah)

SINGAPORE: Singapore stands ready to "robustly defend" its sovereignty over Pedra Branca, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) spokesperson said on Friday (Oct 14).

The comments came a day after Malaysia announced its intention to continue legal action in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the issue of sovereignty over the island.

"Singapore is unable to comment on Malaysia's latest intentions since no details have been shared," the spokesperson said.

"Singapore stands ready to robustly defend our sovereignty over Pedra Branca and will deal with whatever legal action Malaysia may pursue."

The spokesperson said that Singapore had noted Malaysia's press release on the matter, and revisited the details of the ICJ's 2008 ruling.

"In 2008, the Court awarded sovereignty over Pedra Branca to Singapore in the case concerning sovereignty over Pedra Branca, Middle Rocks and South Ledge," the spokesperson said.

"After the Court's decision, both Singapore and Malaysia publicly announced that they will accept and abide by the Court's decision which is final.

"In 2017, Malaysia instituted an application for revision and a request for interpretation of the Court's 2008 decision, which were subsequently withdrawn by Malaysia in 2018.

"Under the Statute of the Court, an application for revision cannot be made after the expiry of 10 years from the date of the Court’s 2008 judgment, that is, May 2018."

A map of Singapore, Pedra Branca and Johor, Malaysia. (Graphic: CNA/Rafa Estrada)

Pedra Branca is located near the eastern entrance of the Straits of Singapore, about 44km east of mainland Singapore.

The dispute over Pedra Branca dates back to 1979, when Malaysia published a map indicating that the island was within the country’s territorial waters.

The matter was brought to the ICJ in 2003, and on May 23, 2008, it ruled that Singapore had sovereignty over Pedra Branca, while Middle Rocks was awarded to Malaysia and South Ledge belonged to the state in whose territorial waters it is located.

Malaysia filed two applications after the ruling, the first on Feb 2, 2017, to revise the ICJ's 2008 judgment.

Its case was hinged on three documents discovered in the National Archives of the United Kingdom that demonstrated officials at the highest levels "did not consider Singapore had sovereignty over Pedra Branca" during the 1950s to 1960s.

The second application on Jun 30, 2017, sought an interpretation of the same ICJ judgment.

It requested that the ICJ declare the waters surrounding Pedra Branca to be Malaysia's and, in turn, the sovereignty of South Ledge belongs to Malaysia – a move that MFA described as "puzzling", "unnecessary" and "without merit". 

Public hearings for the two cases were scheduled for July 2018 at The Hague. However, Putrajaya decided to drop the two cases to revise and to interpret the judgment in May 2018.

In June 2019, then-Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad outlined that Putrajaya had accepted the ICJ ruling over Pedra Branca, citing it as an example of how the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states have worked together based on mutual respect.

Source: CNA/kg(gr)

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