In response to media queries, the MFA Spokesperson said:
“Maritime boundary delimitation disputes are best settled through negotiations
Singapore believes that maritime boundary delimitation disputes are best resolved through negotiations, in order to reach an amicable settlement acceptable to all of the parties. However, if this cannot be achieved, Singapore is prepared to settle such a dispute by recourse to an appropriate international third party dispute settlement procedure, on terms mutually agreed to by the parties.
Filing of declaration under Article 298(1)(a) of UNCLOS
In order for such recourse to international dispute settlement to be based on the mutual agreement of the parties, the Singapore Government on 12 December 2018 filed a declaration under Article 298(1)(a) of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). This declaration means that other States Parties to UNCLOS cannot unilaterally commence third party arbitration or adjudication against Singapore in respect of maritime boundary disputes. Singapore likewise cannot unilaterally commence third party arbitration or adjudication against other States Parties for such disputes.
Should a dispute arise that cannot be resolved through negotiations, Singapore will work with the other States Parties to agree on the choice of forum and the specific issues to be decided, in order that the matter can be submitted to arbitration or adjudication. This is preferable to one party taking another unilaterally to arbitration or adjudication, without prior mutual agreement on these key issues.
Many States Parties to UNCLOS such as France, Canada, Italy, Spain, Australia and Thailand have made similar declarations.
Singapore has informed Malaysia that Singapore has filed this declaration. As noted in Singapore’s press statement of 10 December 2018, representatives of Singapore and Malaysia will be meeting in the second week of January 2019 to discuss and exchange views on the Johor Bahru port limits issue. Singapore hopes that by engaging each other, the two governments will reach a swift and amicable resolution, in accordance with international law.
Singapore remains committed to peaceful settlement of disputes
Singapore will continue to uphold international law and remains committed to the peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with international law.”
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MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
13 DECEMBER 2018