The Foreign Ministers of Singapore and Malaysia, Vivian Balakrishnan and Saifuddin Abdullah, both emphasised mutual respect and the importance of conducting negotiations in a conducive environment during their meeting on Jan. 8.
Both sides agreed to establish a working group helmed by senior government officials to conduct discussions on the maritime border dispute.
However, it has been revealed that following this meeting, there are still Malaysian government vessels in Singapore territorial waters.
Still two left
On Jan. 10, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) confirmed in a press statement that two such Malaysian government vessels remained in Singapore's territorial waters off Tuas, as of 6pm.
It's likely that one of the two vessels is the Pedoman, which entered into Singapore territorial waters after the buoy-laying vessel Jabatan Laut Polaris had left.
Despite the presence of these foreign vessels, the MPA noted that this was down from a higher number of five Malaysian government vessels in the waters off Tuas at 6pm, Jan. 9.
Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat noted in a Facebook post on Dec. 9, 2018 that the intrusions of these government vessels into Singapore's territory represented a violation of Singapore's sovereignty and international law.
While the working group conducts negotiations, it is clear that Malaysia has not yet agreed to return to the status quo.
It remains to be seen if the Malaysian government vessels will stay on in Singapore territorial waters while discussions take place, and if their presence will have an impact on those discussions.
Top image from MINDEF's Facebook page