Singapore will defend sovereignty over Pedra Branca, MFA says in response to Malaysian reports

Malaysia said it intends to continue legal action in the ICJ on the issue of sovereignty over Pedra Branca. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

SINGAPORE - Singapore said on Friday that the Republic stands ready to defend its sovereignty over Pedra Branca, and will deal with any legal action Malaysia might pursue.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said Singapore had noted Malaysia's press statement that it intends to continue legal action in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the issue of sovereignty over Pedra Branca.

"Singapore is unable to comment on Malaysia's latest intentions since no details have been shared," the spokesman said.

"Singapore stands ready to robustly defend our sovereignty over Pedra Branca and will deal with whatever legal action Malaysia may pursue," he added.

MFA was responding to media queries following a statement by Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob on Thursday that said Malaysia's Cabinet had agreed to proceed with legal action at the ICJ on the subject.

The Malaysian statement said there may have been possible negligence on the part of former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad when his government decided not to proceed with a review of the ICJ decision, according to a special task force Malaysia had convened on the matter.

The task force also recommended that Malaysia take appropriate action to defend its sovereignty, the Malaysian statement added.

Pedra Branca is an island located at the eastern entrance of the Singapore Strait, about 24 nautical miles (44km) east of Singapore. The British colonial government took possession of it to build Horsburgh Lighthouse between 1847 and 1851 and other structures, and since then, Singapore has exercised continuous sovereignty over the island and its adjacent waters.

To the south of Pedra Branca are two maritime features - Middle Rocks and South Ledge.

Both countries took the territorial dispute to the ICJ and in 2008, the court awarded sovereignty over Pedra Branca to Singapore in the case concerning sovereignty over Pedra Branca, Middle Rocks and South Ledge.

The ICJ also decided that sovereignty over Middle Rocks belongs to Malaysia, and sovereignty over South Ledge belongs to the state in the territorial waters of which it is located.

MFA noted that after the ICJ's decision, both Singapore and Malaysia publicly announced that they would accept and abide by the court's decision, which is final.

However, in 2017, Malaysia instituted an application for revision and a request for interpretation of the ICJ's 2008 decision, both of which it subsequently withdrew in 2018.

MFA added that under the statute of the court, an application for revision cannot be made after the expiry of 10 years from the date of the court's 2008 judgment - that is, May 2018.

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