KL's move on Pedra Branca won't jeopardise bilateral ties, says Vivian Balakrishnan

Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said that the application by Malaysia to the ICJ over Pedra Branca would not affect bilateral ties between the two countries. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Malaysia's application to an international court to review its decision to award Pedra Branca to Singapore is a model for how countries can resolve disputes peacefully, Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan has said.

"Malaysia and Singapore have been able to resolve differences peacefully, and by using international law - processes and institutions that are set up under international law.

And that, in fact, is a very good model," Dr Balakrishnan told a group of 15 visiting Asean journalists on Thursday.

His comments were reported by Malaysian media outlets The Star and The Malaysian Insight.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2008 awarded sovereignty over Pedra Branca, some 40km east of Singapore at the entrance of the Singapore Strait, to Singapore.

It also awarded sovereignty over the neighbouring Middle Rocks to Malaysia.

In February, Malaysia applied to the ICJ to review its ruling, citing newly discovered documents. In June, Malaysia filed a separate bid for the ICJ to interpret its ruling.

The issue generated some heat in Malaysia this week as Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin criticised Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong for his comments on the matter.

A small group of Umno Youth members on Monday gathered outside the Singapore High Commission in Kuala Lumpur and handed a protest note to the Republic on the matter.

PM Lee had said at the PAP convention last Sunday that ties with Malaysia are good, but noted issues will crop up. Citing the Pedra Branca case that appeared to be settled, he said: "I am not sure what Malaysia's motive is, but their general election is coming, and maybe that has something to do with it."

Dr Balakrishnan said the issue has not affected the relationship between the two neighbours, and their leaders meet regularly.

"With Pedra Branca, I don't have anything more than what my prime minister said over the weekend," he said.

"You can have this difference, but Prime Minister Najib Razak and Prime Minister Lee are meeting, communicating regularly. They just met," he added.

"I see Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman all the time, and I'm on WhatsApp with him. I won't say it doesn't matter, but it does not stop bilateral relations, cooperation, and peace between us."

"That's the most important thing: that we have access to peaceful means of resolving disputes. And that is why we are such strong believers in international law," he added.

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