An expert in Southeast Asian matters, living in Australia but of Malaysian origin, said that Singapore can now forget the Mersing line, and it must contend with the new Luconia line.
“Given control over Luconia Shoals and Middle Rocks, China has now an effective line of control that extends over the South China Sea,” says the blogger.
For those who do not understand the military-geographical jargons, it means the demarcation line in the South China Sea, and the delimitation of Singapore’s sovereign territory on the disputed seas.
The blogger, Ganesh Sahathevan, said it is almost an article of faith that if Malaysia and Singapore goes to war, Singapore will seek to move its line of effective control forward into Johor.
That is at the so-called Mersing Line, also known in World War 2 as the Wellington Line.
“Fast forward 75 years, and one can see from recent developments (that is the Malaysian claims on Pedra Branca) that the new battle line is out in the South China Sea,” wrote Sahathevan in his blog post ‘realpolitikasia‘.
It been previously reported on the blog that Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak has probably delivered effective control of the Luconia Shoals, in the north-east of the South China Sea, to China.
Sahathevan says Malaysia’s fresh claims on Pedra Branca/Batu Puteh suggests Malaysia has surrendered its right to Luconia.
He said Malaysia’s removal of its own flag from Luconia Shoals is in stark contrast with past practices from Putrajaya.
“Then comes the matter of PM Najib’s sudden interest in Pedra Branca, and hence the Middle Rocks.
“China is aiming for the Middle Rocks, and Pedra Branca, via proxy Malaysia,” he wrote, adding that artificial islands in the Singapore Strait are likely.
Sahathevan believes Malaysia’s determination to push on with the matter raises the possibility that Putrajaya will not mind losing, so long as the Pedra Branca decision and all prior negotiations are rendered meaningless.
“As a result of the matter remaining unresolved, or at least in contention due to perceived grievances on Malaysia’s part.”
New Island in the sun
He said that would allow Malaysia to claim that the matter remains in dispute, and to justify a more aggressive assertion of sovereignty, such as island building following the footsteps of China in the South China Sea.
“Malaysia’s leadership, especially under Prime Minister Najib has shown little appetite for such aggression, but China, of course, is an old hand at that game.
“China has also shown itself willing to ignore decisions of an international tribunal,and this far defies international criticism for doing so.
He said given that Malaysia and especially Najib are now very much beholden to China it is likely that this legal challenge is being orchestrated by China.
“With the ultimate aim of controlling the eastern mouth of the Singapore Strait. It probably expects that Singapore will fold, just like the Philippines, regardless of the legal position,” wrote Sahathevan.