SINGAPORE - Singapore has called on Malaysia to stop its "provocative intrusions" into Singapore's territorial waters, saying there is an urgent need to do so to avoid escalating tensions on the ground and comply with international law.
Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan stressed the point in a phone call on Wednesday (Dec 5) to his Malaysian counterpart Saifuddin Abdullah, Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said in a statement.
Dr Balakrishnan also highlighted to Datuk Saifuddin the "series of provocative intrusions" by Malaysian government vessels into Singapore's territorial waters off Tuas, despite the Republic's diplomatic protests against Malaysia's recent purported extension of the Johor Bahru port limits, the statement added.
The extension, recently gazetted by Malaysia, encroaches into Singapore's waters, and has resulted in vessels from the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency and Marine Department Malaysia making repeated incursions into Singapore's waters in the past two weeks.
"Minister Balakrishnan noted that the Johor Bahru Port Limits now extends beyond even the limits of Malaysia's territorial sea claim in the area, as set out in Malaysia's own 1979 map, which Singapore has never accepted," said the MFA.
But earlier on Wednesday, Malaysian Transport Minister Anthony Loke said in a statement that Singapore's claims of the new port limits encroaching into Singapore's waters were "inaccurate".
Mr Loke added: "Singapore has in recent years carried out extensive land reclamation in the area in question. It is trite law that land reclamation does not extend a state's basepoints and/or baselines."
In his call to Mr Saifuddin, Dr Balakrishnan also brought up the discussion on airspace issues between Singapore's Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan and Mr Loke.
On Tuesday, Mr Loke, citing sovereignty, said Malaysia intends to reclaim the management of the airspace over Southern Johor, which has been delegated to Singapore to provide air traffic services since 1973.
The MFA said Dr Balakrishnan emphasised to Mr Saifuddin that Singapore respected Malaysia's sovereignty.
Dr Balakrishnan also told him it was in the "interest of both countries to ensure the safety of civil aviation over our skies", the MFA said.
He conveyed to Mr Saifuddin as well that "any proposal should ensure that the safety and efficiency of civilian air traffic was not compromised, and remained in accordance with International Civil Aviation Organisation standards, processes, and procedures".
The MFA added: "Minister Balakrishnan said that Singapore and Malaysia should continue to discuss these issues constructively and emphasised the importance of maintaining a good bilateral relationship between close neighbours and compliance with international law."