Foreign ministers of Singapore and Malaysia to meet on Jan 8 in the Republic

Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah was quoted by Malaysian media as saying the dispute over airspace would be on the agenda of the meeting.
Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah was quoted by Malaysian media as saying the dispute over airspace would be on the agenda of the meeting.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - The foreign ministers of Singapore and Malaysia will meet in the Republic on Jan 8, said Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday (Jan 1).

This follows a meeting Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat had with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Monday (Dec 31), said the ministry in response to media queries.

Mr Teo and Mr Heng had visited Putrajaya to convey a message to Dr Mahathir on behalf of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the ministry said.

It added that there were also plans for the transport ministers of both countries to meet soon.

The statement did not elaborate on what will be discussed, but Bernama on Tuesday quoted Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah as saying the dispute over airspace would be on the agenda.

Mr Saifuddin had revealed the Dec 31 meeting between DPM Teo and Dr Mahathir, and said: "My visit to Singapore is a continuation of the meeting yesterday. There are several issues, but the one that must be given immediate attention is Singapore's plans for the Seletar Airport which will pass through the airspace over Pasir Gudang, Johor."

Mr Saifuddin was also quoted as saying: "We protested and declared the airspace a restricted area, and this will be a problem to Singapore. I am confident the issue will be discussed well to find a win-win solution for both countries."


Separately on Tuesday, Singapore's Ministry of Transport said, in response to media queries, that the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia had published a Notice to Airmen (Notam) on Dec 25.

The notice informed the aviation community of Malaysia's establishment of a permanent Restricted Area for the purpose of military activities over Pasir Gudang with effect from Jan 2.

"The Restricted Area being within a controlled and congested airspace will impact the existing and normal operations of aircraft transiting through the airspace," said the Ministry of Transport.

"We have raised with Malaysia our concerns over the Restricted Area's adverse impact on civil aviation. Singapore has proposed to meet with Malaysia to discuss its establishment of the Restricted Area," it said.

Airspace - as well as port limits - has become a bilateral issue in recent months.

Malaysia has objected to new landing procedures at Seletar Airport scheduled to be enforced on Jan 3. It claims that the Instrument Landing System (ILS) procedures will adversely affect developments in Johor's Pasir Gudang Port and wants to reclaim management of the airspace, where Singapore has been providing air traffic services since 1974.

Singapore has pointed out that ILS - 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 Pasir Gudang Port.

It has also said that management of the skies has nothing to do with sovereignty but was delegated to Singapore's management under an agreement with regional states, including Malaysia, in 1973, and this was approved by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

On Oct 25, Kuala Lumpur also unilaterally extended the Johor Baru port limits such that they encroach on Singapore's territorial waters off Tuas. In response to the expanded Johor Baru port boundaries, Singapore extended its own port limits on Dec 6, a move that drew protest from Malaysia.

Both countries had earlier agreed to meet in January.