A spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said on Thursday, December 14, announced that Singapore filed a declaration under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) at the United Nations in New York on December 12, for the purpose of making sure that no signatory will unilaterally begin third-party arbitration concerning issues involving boundary disputes.
Article 298(1)(a) of UNCLOS prevents any entity from unilaterally starting third party arbitration or adjudication. Meaning that no UNCLOS signatory nations cannot, on their own, start third-party arbitration or adjudication against Singapore, regarding boundary issues. Neither can Singapore, on its own, start third-party arbitration or adjudication versus other nations in similar disputes.
According to a statement from the MFA, “Singapore believes that maritime boundary delimitation disputes are best resolved through negotiations, in order to reach an amicable settlement acceptable to all of the parties.
However, if this cannot be achieved, Singapore is prepared to settle such a dispute by recourse to an appropriate international third-party dispute settlement procedure, on terms mutually agreed to by the parties.
Should a dispute arise that cannot be resolved through negotiations, Singapore will work with the other States Parties to agree on the choice of forum and the specific issues to be decided, in order that the matter can be submitted to arbitration or adjudication. This is preferable to one party taking another unilaterally to arbitration or adjudication, without prior mutual agreement on these key issues.
Singapore hopes that by engaging each other, the two governments will reach a swift and amicable resolution, in accordance with international law.”
The MFA also said that Malaysia has already been informed of the filing of the declaration under UNCLOS, even as both nations are preparing for bilateral talks concerning territorial disputes in the middle of January.
Khaw Boon Wan, Singapore’s Transport Minister, said that Malaysia has begun to de-escalate tension on the ground. Only one ship from Malaysia is still in the territorial waters of Singapore, already fewer than the 3 that were there last Friday, December 7.
In October, Malaysia had unilaterally decided to expand the port limits in Johor Baru, with government vessels entering Singapore’s maritime territory several times. This sparked the latest round of tensions between the two countries.