Transport Minister Khaw welcomes Malaysia's move to pull back two vessels
After Malaysia withdraws two vessels in S'pore waters, Transport Minister urges Malaysia to pull back last remaining ship
Singapore has welcomed Malaysia's moves to defuse tensions between the two countries. Malaysia has withdrawn two vessels that had been in Singapore's territorial waters.
Acknowledging this, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan urged Malaysia to pull back its one remaining ship from Singapore waters, adding that the vessel's presence creates "an unnecessary risk of an accidental escalation on the ground".
This risk is also "not conducive" to the upcoming bilateral talks that the two sides have agreed to hold in the second week of January, Mr Khaw told reporters yesterday.
The dispute flared up after Malaysia unilaterally extended its Johor Baru port boundaries through a gazette on Oct 25, encroaching into Singapore territorial waters west of Tuas.
This was followed by a series of incursions by Malaysian government vessels into the Republic's waters.
Singapore responded by extending its own port limits last Thursday, which Malaysia protested against.
"Neighbours will always have some disputes and it's how you address them (that matters)," Mr Khaw said.
He also said there were "a few inaccuracies" in a video posted online by his Malaysian counterpart Anthony Loke.
The video suggested that height restrictions stemming from new flight procedures would put Pasir Gudang port at risk from pilots coming in to land at Seletar Airport.
Mr Khaw said this was not the case as the new procedures were only a tool to help the pilot, who still retained control of the plane.
After objecting to the Seletar Airport procedures, Malaysia said it wanted to reclaim management of the airspace over Southern Johor, where Singapore has been providing air traffic services since 1974.
Reflecting on the turn of events, Mr Khaw said the transport ministries of both countries have worked together very well for many years.
"And then out of the blue in October, suddenly they started a row, in air, in water - what next? Land transport too? I wonder why," he said.
Mr Khaw cited the manner in which Singapore had handled Malaysia's request to defer the high-speed rail project as an example of how disputes could be resolved.
"We could have taken a completely legalistic approach to the project but we chose not to... However, if you prefer to do something else, then there's a different approach. We have options too," he said.
Asked if next month's talks are conditional on Malaysian vessels pulling out, Mr Khaw said: "We are committed to talks and we will talk, that has always been our attitude."
Meanwhile, Singapore's security agencies continue to patrol the waters and keep a close watch, he said.
Alluding to Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's recent comment that Malaysia and Singapore are like a pair of twins except perhaps the elder twin is a little bit bigger than the younger twin and a bit older, Mr Khaw said the analogy was a good one.
But Mr Khaw added: "As twins, we ought to embrace each other and help each other grow, and help each other succeed and celebrate each other's achievements. Then I think it is so much better."
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Khaw: Malaysia may be using ‘technical excuse’ to demand change
Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan has stressed that Singapore's plans to introduce an Instrument Landing System (ILS) for Seletar Airport - which will guide pilots landing there with ground instruments instead of relying on their visual assessment - will not pose any safety or security risks to operations at Johor's Pasir Gudang port.
He was responding yesterday to remarks made by his Malaysian counterpart Anthony Loke.
In a 90-second video posted on his Facebook page, Mr Loke claimed the Pasir Gudang port would encounter higher risks due to the height restrictions that Singapore wants to set for Seletar's ILS.
He said: "Even a crane would break the height limit. We can't even build tall buildings over Pasir Gudang if we allow that flight path."
Speaking to reporters, Mr Khaw said: "I've watched the video: It's a good video. I commend their video team, but I think it contains a few inaccuracies."
Referring to Mr Loke's comments on safety concerns with regard to the height restrictions proposed, Mr Khaw said: "That is not how ILS works. ILS is like autopilot in an aircraft. It is a tool for the pilot. The pilot can always have manual intervention if security concerns require it... The pilot retains full control throughout the flight."
He added: "The key point is if it were a technical concern, with goodwill, I am confident a mutually satisfactory technical solution can be found. The situation seems to be that they are using this technical excuse to trigger a demand to change the airspace arrangement."
Malaysia has said it wants to take back air traffic services for the airspace over southern Johor, which were delegated to Singapore in 1974. Mr Khaw stressed the arrangement "has worked very well, benefiting all stakeholders in this region", so he was "truly baffled" by Malaysia's recent stance.
In a statement yesterday, Malaysia's Transport Ministry said the current tensions between the two countries over the procedures at Seletar are "unnecessary and can be avoided" if the ILS is implemented for Runway 03 on the southern side of the airport and not for Runway 21 on the northern side.
Responding to media queries on this, Singapore's Ministry of Transport (MOT) said in a statement last night that CAAS had informed its Malaysian counterpart at a meeting on Nov 29 that Singapore would need to put in place instrument flight procedures for both the northerly and southerly approaches into Seletar Airport.
This is necessary because aircraft land and take off into the wind. Malaysia has also suggested the implementation of ILS procedures for the northerly approach into Seletar Airport is a "clear violation of Malaysia sovereignty and international law and standards".
This is also not true, said Singapore's MOT. The nature of international civil aviation is such that flights have to traverse the airspace of different countries.