Loke: Claims by Singapore of encroachment into its waters inaccurate

Transport Minister Loke Siew Fook says Singapore had in recent years carried out extensive land reclamation in the disputed area.

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia has rejected Singapore’s claims that the altered port limits for Johor Bahru Port have encroached into any part of Singapore.

In a statement today, Transport Minister Loke Siew Fook said Singapore had carried out extensive land reclamation in the disputed area in recent years.

“(However), it is trite law that land reclamation does not extend a state’s basepoints and/or baselines.

“In accordance with international law, the territorial sea of Singapore remains unchanged even when reclamation has been carried out almost to the outer limits of Singapore’s territorial sea.

“As such, the altered port limits of Johor Bahru Port are in Malaysia’s territorial sea and it is well within Malaysia’s right to draw any port limit in our territorial sea in accordance with our own national laws,” Loke said.

He reiterated that Malaysia has always had, and continues to have, sovereignty over the waters within the port limits for Johor Bahru Port.

Loke said Malaysia has also taken prudent action to accurately promulgate the alteration via a federal government gazette and to issue the necessary port circular and notice to mariners.

Malaysia, he added, has the right as a sovereign state to deploy its enforcement and relevant competent agencies in its territorial sea.

“This practice is fully consistent with international law and, as such, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency and the Marine Department of Malaysia have not intruded into any part of Singapore,” he said.

Loke was responding to a statement issued yesterday by Singapore’s ministry of transport (MOT) that the republic had lodged a strong protest with the Malaysian government over the Johor Bahru port limits issue.

The statement said MOT noted “with grave concern” that Malaysia had recently purported to extend the Johor Bahru port limits in a manner which encroached into Singapore territorial waters off Tuas.

The statement, however, added that Singapore was ready to engage with Malaysia to find an amicable solution to the issue, in accordance with international laws.

Loke urged Singapore to immediately withdraw its port marine circular issued on Nov 30 and prevent its enforcement agencies from further intruding into Malaysia’s territorial sea and harassing vessels and persons lawfully permitted by Malaysian laws and authorities as well as international law to be present in Malaysia’s territorial sea.

He pointed out that these actions by Singapore amounted to serious violations of Malaysia’s sovereignty and international law.

They were not conducive to good bilateral relations, and would cause confusion for the international shipping community and lead to increased navigational and safety risks to all parties, he said.

He said Malaysia was prepared to engage with Singapore through appropriate diplomatic channels to resolve the matter amicably.