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Singapore postpones joint ministerial committee talks on Iskandar after Johor chief minister’s intrusion into its territorial waters

Singapore postpones joint ministerial committee talks on Iskandar after Johor chief minister’s intrusion into its territorial waters

Composite image showing Johor Chief Minister Osman Sapian visiting Malaysia Marine Department vessel Pedoman. (Photos: Singapore Police Force)

SINGAPORE: The 14th meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee for Iskandar Malaysia (JMCIM) scheduled for Jan 14 has been postponed, Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said on Saturday (Jan 12).

“The intrusion by Johor Menteri Besar Osman Sapian into Singapore Territorial Waters off Tuas on Jan 9, 2019 made the 14th JMCIM meeting untenable. Singapore therefore proposed to postpone the JMCIM meeting, and Malaysia agreed,” MFA said in a statement.

On Wednesday, Johor Chief Minister Osman Sapian made a visit to the Pedoman, which was in Singapore territorial waters. Mr Osman also posted photos on Facebook showing his visit on board the vessel.

READ: Singapore, Malaysia maritime dispute: A timeline

Malaysian government vessels have made repeated incursions into Singapore territorial waters in recent months, after Malaysia extended the Johor Bahru port limits in October, encroaching into Singapore territorial waters off Tuas.

Singapore has protested the port limit extension and the movements of the vessels. Singapore's Transport Ministry also extended Singapore's port limits off Tuas on Dec 6 in response.

Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan also said then that there had been as many as 14 intrusions by Malaysian vessels in the two weeks before Dec 6.

READ: Malaysian vessel parked in Singapore waters is used to mark territory

This week, tensions appeared to ease as both countries' foreign ministers met.

Singapore Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and his Malaysian counterpart Saifuddin Abdullah said in a joint statement on Tuesday that the countries had agreed to establish a working group to study and discuss legal and operational matters relating to the maritime dispute, in order to provide a basis for further discussions and negotiations.

Illustration showing the adjustment of Singapore and Malaysia's port limits.

Malaysia Economic Affairs Minister Mohamed Azmin Ali, who was supposed to lead a Malaysian delegation to the meeting, told Bernama that certain issues from the meeting which were closely related to matters raised in the bilateral meeting.

"Since the meeting (between the two foreign ministers) has just taken place and both countries have issued a positive joint statement, I do not want to interfere with the process by having the JMCIM meeting now," he said on Saturday. "So it's a good idea to defer it."

When asked whether the intrusion had affected the relationship between the two countries, Mohamed Azmin said it had not.

"The foreign ministries of both countries have taken an open approach to ensure that all issues pertaining to the maritime border are resolved in good faith," he said.

Source: CNA/rw/hm


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