Singapore will discuss issues with Malaysia calmly: Vivian, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Singapore will discuss issues with Malaysia calmly: Vivian

This article is more than 12 months old

But Foreign Minister warns of consequences for any 'adventures or antics' against Singapore

Singapore will do its best to discuss all outstanding bilateral issues with Malaysia in a calm, reasonable and focused manner, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan told Parliament yesterday.

But he warned of "consequences" if other nations embarked on "adventures and antics" against it.

Dr Balakrishnan also said he does not expect a quick or smooth resolution to these issues with Malaysia, which include disputes over maritime and airspace boundaries.

Last October, Malaysia unilaterally extended the Johor Baru port limits into Singapore's territorial waters off Tuas.

It has also objected to the implementation of new landing procedures for Seletar Airport.

"Both of these sets of sudden actions upset the status quo that has been in place for many years," Dr Balakrishnan said in his statement, where he set out the facts of each issue and highlighted steps that both sides have taken to find a constructive way forward.

"These actions did not bode well for our bilateral relationship. They created the risk of a dangerous downward spiral of measures and counter-measures."

On Malaysia's extension of port limits, he said it goes beyond even the territorial sea claims in its 1979 map, which Singapore has rejected.

"The inescapable conclusion is that the new Johor Baru port limits transgress into what are indisputably Singapore territorial waters," said the minister, highlighting how Singapore has long exercised sovereignty and patrolled the disputed waters without protest from Malaysia.

He also pointed out that daily intrusions into these waters by Malaysian government vessels since November have continued despite the Malaysian Foreign Ministry declaring that it would take "all effective measures" to de-escalate the situation on the ground.

"These intrusions do not help Malaysia's legal case. All they do is to raise tensions and endanger navigational safety in the area," he said.

Dr Balakrishnan and his Malaysian counterpart had agreed last week to form a working group to discuss matters and de-escalate the situation in the waters off Tuas.

While Singapore believes that maritime boundary delimitation is best resolved through negotiations, it is prepared to settle disputes via an appropriate international third party dispute settlement procedure if such negotiations fail, he said.

Replying to a question from Mr Vikram Nair (Sembawang GRC) on what actions Singapore could take if there were further intrusions into its waters, Dr Balakrishnan said: "We will always take appropriate measures to safeguard our interest, and any country dealing with Singapore must not assume that it is cost-free to embark on any adventures or antics against us. There will be consequences."

He also addressed the 1962 Water Agreement, which Malaysia wants to revise.

The attorneys-general on both sides had met last month, but it was overshadowed by other issues that arose. They will meet again, he said.

The transport ministers from both countries have also agreed to meet this month for discussions on the airspace dispute.

Dr Balakrishnan said: "The strength of Singapore's diplomacy depends on domestic unity and resilience, and the fact that we cannot be intimidated or bought."