Singapore filed a "comprehensive rebuttal" on Monday to Malaysia's request that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) declare the waters surrounding Pedra Branca to be Malaysian waters.
"Singapore is confident of its case and its legal team," the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said in a statement. The next step in the case is for the two sides to present oral arguments to the ICJ, on dates yet to be fixed.
Malaysia's application, made in June this year, concerned the court's 2008 ruling that said: First, Pedra Branca belongs to Singapore; second, Middle Rocks belongs to Malaysia; and third, South Ledge belongs "to the state in the territorial waters of which it is located".
After the 2008 ruling, the two countries formed a joint technical committee to implement the ruling. However, according to Malaysia, this committee reached an impasse in 2013, because it could not agree on what the ruling meant on South Ledge. Malaysia said in its application that this "ongoing uncertainty... continues to complicate the task of ensuring orderly and peaceful relations".
It therefore decided to submit the application asking the court to declare the waters around Pedra Branca to be Malaysian waters - and, by extension, that South Ledge belongs to Malaysia.
Shortly after the June application by Malaysia, the MFA issued a statement saying Singapore disagreed that the 2008 ICJ ruling needed clarification. It added that "in our view, the ICJ judgment is clear and unambiguous".
"Malaysia's request for the ICJ to interpret the judgment is puzzling. Singapore will therefore oppose Malaysia's application for interpretation, which we consider to be both unnecessary and without merit," the statement said.
After the 2008 ruling, the two countries formed a joint technical committee to implement the ruling. However, according to Malaysia, this committee reached an impasse in 2013, because it could not agree on what the ruling meant on South Ledge.
Following MFA's latest statement yesterday, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said in a Facebook post that he hoped the ongoing applications on the 2008 ICJ ruling can be "resolved as soon as possible, so that both countries can focus on strengthening our bilateral ties".
He acknowledged the efforts of staff from the MFA, the Attorney-General's Chambers and the Ministry of Law who were involved in preparing the case.
He also thanked former senior minister S. Jayakumar, former chief justice Chan Sek Keong, Ambassador-at-Large Tommy Koh, and Attorney-General Lucien Wong.
"Our team has benefited tremendously from their wisdom and insight," wrote Dr Balakrishnan.
In its statement yesterday, the MFA also said that Singapore had chosen Judge Gilbert Guillaume to sit as an ad hoc judge for the upcoming proceedings. Under ICJ rules, each party is allowed to choose an ad hoc judge if there is no judge of that party's nationality on the bench. The Straits Times understands that there is no judge of either Singaporean or Malaysian nationality on the bench, and Malaysia is therefore also entitled to choose an ad hoc judge.
Since the 2008 ICJ ruling, Malaysia has made two separate applications connected to the ruling. Other than the June application to interpret the ruling, there was an application in February this year asking ICJ to revise the ruling.
That earlier application by Malaysia argued that certain documents declassified by the government of the United Kingdom after the 2008 ruling were decisive to the case, and that "the court would have been bound to reach a different conclusion on the question of sovereignty over Pedra Branca had it been aware of this new evidence".
Singapore has also filed a comprehensive rebuttal to the February application, and the case is ongoing.