Indonesia and Singapore agree new maritime boundary
(5 February 2009)
Reports have indicated that Indonesia and Singapore have delimitated a new maritime boundary in the western section in the Strait of Malacca. Although still awaiting signature and ratification, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono confirmed on 2 February 2009 that the western segment of their maritime boundary had now been agreed completing nearly four years of negotiations. This is the second maritime boundary section to be agreed by the two states, following delimitation of the central section through Main Strait and the Strait of Singapore in 1973. Details have not yet been released publicly but reports suggest that the new western segment of the boundary follows a median line determined from basepoints located on Indonesia's Nipah Island and Singapore's Sultan Shoal Island. Singapore agreed not to use its reclaimed shoreline to measure the median line, and instead utilised the original coastline of Sultan Shoal Island.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda went on to report that dialogue and discussion regarding the eastern segment of their maritime boundary will commence as soon as the present agreement is signed. Negotiations over the eastern section have been hampered by the dispute between Singapore and Malaysia over the Branca rocks (recognized by Malaysia as Batu Puteh) located in the eastern approaches to the Strait of Singapore. In 2008, the International Court of Justice ruled that Singapore holds sovereignty over the rocks, but the two states have not agreed their maritime boundary in the eastern area. This latest agreement between Singapore and Indonesia has caused speculation that Singapore and Malaysia may resume negotiations in light of this development. However, the close confines of the maritime area through the Strait of Singapore and the position of Pedra Branca will add complexity to the negotiations.
With the western maritime boundary agreed, reports indicate that Indonesia will now expand economic development in greater areas including the Batam, Bintan and Karimun free trade zones in the Riau Islands. The agreement also is anticipated to generate and reassure economic ties between Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia and in particular ensuring security cooperation through the busy Malacca Strait.
‘RI, Singapore agree on new boundary’, The Jakarta Post, 3 February 2009; ‘RI, Singapore to Sign Sea Border Agreement’, LKBN ANTARA, 2 February 2009; ‘Indonesia, Singapore reach agreement over western maritime boundary’, BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific, 4 February 2009.