Vivian Balakrishnan calls Malaysia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs about “urgent need” to stop intrusions into Singapore’s waters

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A phone call was made on Wednesday, December 5, by the Foreign Affairs Minister of Singapore, Vivian Balakrishnan, to Saifuddin Abdullah, who holds the same office in Malaysia. Balakrishnan spoke to Saifuddin for the express purpose of asking Putrajaya to stop its intrusions into the country’s territorial waters.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) issued a statement after the call, in which he spoke to Saifuddin about how Malaysia reportedly extended the limits of the Johor Baru port, coming into what is already Singapore’s territory in the waters off Tuas.

Read related: Singapore-Malaysia diplomatic row in progress over straits, airspace

“Minister Balakrishnan noted that the (port limits) now extend beyond even the limits of Malaysia’s territorial sea claim in the area, as set out in Malaysia’s own 1979 map, which Singapore has never accepted,” the statement read.

Balakrishnan also noted that government ships from Malaysia had embarked on “provocative intrusions” into Singapore’s waters, and emphasized the “urgent need for Malaysia to cease these intrusions so as to comply with international law and to avoid escalating tensions on the ground”.

Singapore has protested over Malaysia’s actions to extend its boundaries since these are a transgression of international laws as well as Singapore’s sovereignty; as well as the entrance of ships and other vessels in the last two weeks into the Republic’s territory off Tuas.

These vessels include ships from Marine Department Malaysia and the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency.

According to Singapore’s Ministry of Transport (MOT), the Republic “will not hesitate to take firm action against intrusions and unauthorized activities in our waters”.

Tensions between Singapore and Malaysia began to heighten this week when Anthony Loke, the Transport Minister of Malaysia, said that Singapore had permitted new Instrument Landing System (ILS) procedures for the Seletar Airport without Malaysia’s agreement. Since this airport is only 2 kilometers from the border at Johor Baru, Like claimed it would affect Pasir Gudang, a town in Johor Baru.

Singapore denied Loke’s allegations, saying that Malaysia had been informed of the ILS procedures in December 2017.

Balakrishnan brought this matter up in his conversation with Saifuddin as well.

The statement from the MFA read, “Minister Balakrishnan said that Singapore and Malaysia should continue to discuss these issues constructively and emphasized the importance of maintaining a good bilateral relationship between close neighbors and compliance with international law.”