Singapore, Malaysia making headway on disputes: Ng Eng Hen

Minister says leaders from both sides are communicating, even as Republic's security agencies remain ever vigilant

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said that Singapore and Malaysia are making headway concerning the ongoing maritime and airspace issues.
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said that Singapore and Malaysia are making headway concerning the ongoing maritime and airspace issues.PHOTO: ST FILE

Singapore and Malaysia are "making headway" and communicating over the ongoing maritime and airspace disputes.

At the same time, Singapore's security agencies are "ever vigilant", said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen.

Dr Ng told Channel NewsAsia on the sidelines of an active living event yesterday: "I think we are making headway. As you know, the Minister for Transport and the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the (Malaysian) officials are speaking.

"At the same time, our security agencies (the Singapore Armed Forces and the Home Team) are ever vigilant. We watch very carefully. We know what's going on. We're able to respond very quickly."

Dr Ng said that it is now up to diplomats to arrive at a "constructive position", adding: "We'll leave it to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but I think both sides have stated their views so let's let our diplomats and officials talk it through and arrive at a constructive position that respects both sides' rights, goes (in accordance) with international law as well as helps both sides prosper."

He noted: "Ultimately, we lead our individual countries but we are servants to our people, and we must make sure our people are not put into harm's way and that their livelihoods are not affected.

"At the same time, guarding our own rights (based) upon international law and I think based on that, there are common views that both sides can arrive at that will meet our objectives. That's the best way to serve our people."


Dr Ng said the most important takeaway is that "we have avoided coming to blows".

He added: "It's always better to settle disagreements through peaceful talks, negotiations and discussions."

Singapore disputes Malaysia's claim that the new Instrument Landing System (ILS) and ILS approach procedures for Singapore's Seletar Airport will affect the development of Pasir Gudang town in Johor.

The two countries are also entangled in a maritime dispute following Malaysia's decision to expand Johor Baru's port limits. The issue was escalated when Malaysian government vessels moved into Singapore waters.

Officials from the two countries will meet in the coming weeks to discuss the ongoing disputes.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 21, 2019, with the headline 'S'pore, KL making headway on disputes: Ng Eng Hen'. Subscribe