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Singapore to carry out land reclamation on island formerly claimed by Malaysia

The Singapore government will proceed with its plan to begin land reclamation works on Pedra Branca: a rocky South China Sea island located at the eastern approach to the Singapore Strait.

The reclamation will be carried out as part of development works to enhance maritime safety and security, and improve search-and-rescue capabilities in the area, Singapore's Ministry of National Development (MND) announced on 5 July.

Pedra Branca is located about 24 n miles east of mainland Singapore. It is the site of the Horsburgh Lighthouse and hosts sensors for the vessel traffic information system (VTIS), a helipad, a desalination plant, a communications tower and a rebroadcast station.

Disputes over the island's sovereignty arose in 1979 after the Malaysian government released a map showing Pedra Branca, and two other islands in the area known as Middle Rocks and South Ledge, as being within Putrajaya's territorial waters. The dispute was subsequently referred to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2003.

The ICJ ruled in 2008 that sovereignty over Pedra Branca belonged to Singapore, while the sovereignty of Middle Rocks belonged to Malaysia. The court reserved its judgment on the sovereignty of South Ledge.

Since the ruling Malaysia has constructed a new maritime base across the two uninhabited features of Middle Rocks. The facility, which Malaysia refers to as the Abu Bakar Maritime Base, includes a 316 m jetty, an observation tower, and a helipad.

The base was inaugurated in 2017, the same year that Putrajaya filed an application to revise the ICJ's 2008 judgment, claiming that it had found new evidence from the National Archives of the United Kingdom that could prove its sovereignty over Pedra Branca. However, the plan to file this application was subsequently dropped in 2018.

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