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JC History Tuition Bishan Singapore - What is the Pedra Branca dispute - JC History Essay Notes

What is the Pedra Branca dispute?

Topic of Study [For H2 History Students]:
Paper 2: Regional Conflicts and Co-operation
Source Based Case Study
Theme III Chapter 1: Inter-state tensions and co-operation: Causes of inter-state tensions: territorial disputes

Learn more about other border disputes to understand the causes and consequences of inter-state tensions in Southeast Asia.

Historical Background
Pedra Branca is an island situated in the easternmost point of Singapore, between the Singapore Strait and South China Sea. The island is known to many sailors for years, given its strategic location as a internationally-recognised shipping route.

Following the signing of the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824, Pedra Branca was within the British-influenced territory of the Johor Sultanate. In the 1850s, the British established the Horsburgh Lighthouse (not the featured article image).

From 1826 to 1946, the Straits Settlements administered the Pedra Branca island. Subsequently, Singapore took over.

Origins of the Dispute
On 21 December 1979, the Director of National Mapping of Malaysia published a map that depicted the island to be within its territorial waters. The map was titled ‘Territorial Waters and Continental Shelf Boundaries of Malaysia‘, which illustrated the inclusion of Pedra Branca, the ‘Middle Rocks’ and ‘South Ledge’ in its territory.

In response, Singapore delivered a diplomatic note on 14 February, requesting the map to be corrected. From then on, the territorial dispute began.

The conflict began to escalate in the 1980s as the Malaysian Marine Police entered the waters surrounding Pedra Branca several times.

Nevertheless, both parties exercised restraint and avoided direct confrontation. As such, political leaders from both governments engaged in discussions to defuse tensions.

International Arbitration: The ICJ
In 2003, Singapore and Malaysia signed an official agreement to defer the dispute to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The ICJ carried out its proceedings in 2005 and the case was heard in November 2007.

From Singapore’s standpoint, it claimed sovereign rights over Pedra Branca based on the premise that it had managed the island over the years. For example, Singapore and its predecessors had investigated marine accidents in the vicinity, planned land reclamation works and installed naval communications equipment.

On the other hand, Malaysia undertook no action with respect to Pedra Branca from 1850 onwards. Furthermore, in 1953, the Acting Secretary of the State of Johor stated that they did not claim ownership of the island.

Conflict Resolution
In conclusion, the Court declared that the sovereignty of Pedra Branca belonged to Singapore, whereas the surrounding Middle Rocks and South Ledge were granted to Malaysia.

Initially, the Malaysian Government expressed its intent to reconsider the Court’s ruling over the island. In May 2018, Malaysia chose to drop the two cases of revising and interpreting the judgment by ICJ.

What can we learn from this article?
Consider the following question:
– Assess the consequences of the Pedra Branca dispute on the management of inter-state tensions between Singapore and Malaysia [to be discussed in class].

Now that you have covered the general overview relating to this territorial dispute, it is imperative that you attempt source-based case study questions (Paper 2 – Making of Independent Southeast Asia) to review your knowledge application and writing skills.

Alternatively, you can join our JC History Tuition as we provide you with summarised content for each case study, outline references and additional practice questions. By doing so, you will be prepared thoroughly for the complexities of the GCE A Level History examinations.

Also, do consider joining our related JC tuition programmes, such as GP TuitionEconomics TuitionJC Chemistry TuitionJC Math Tuition and China Studies in English Tuition. For Secondary Tuition, we provide Secondary English TuitionSecondary Math tuitionSecondary Chemistry Tuition and Secondary Economics Tuition. Call 9689 0510 to find out more.

JC History Tuition Bishan Singapore - What is the South China Sea dispute - JC History Essay Notes

What is the South China Sea dispute?

Topic of Study [For H2 History Students]:
Paper 2: Regional Conflicts and Co-operation
Source Based Case Study
Theme III Chapter 2: ASEAN (Growth and Development of ASEAN: Building regional peace and security – relations between ASEAN and external powers)

Find out more about these major developments that shaped the protracted territorial dispute.

Historical Background
South China Sea dispute involves a large region of islands, reefs and banks. In particular, the region relates to contentious parts like Spratly Islands and Scarborough Shoal. The dispute originated from competing territorial claims between ASEAN-related countries (Philippines and Vietnam) and external powers, particularly China. For example, China based its territorial claims on the ‘nine dash line’ map, which was contested on by other claimants.

Unfortunately, these competing claims have resulted in clashes that occasionally escalated into violent confrontations. In January 1974, China clashed with South Vietnam over the ‘Paracels’, which resulted in the sinking of several Vietnamese ships and a substantial number of casualties. In 1988, China attacked Vietnamese forces in the Spratlys Islands, leading to frayed bilateral tensions.

Competing Claims
From the late 1970s to 1980s, Philippines advanced its claims on the Spratlys. In June 1978, Marcos announced the Presidential Decree that established the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which covered 200 nautical miles of the affected region. Likewise, in 1988, Brunei outlined an EEZ that stretched into the southern part of the Spratlys.

ASEAN’s intervention I: The Manila Declaration
On 22 July 1992, during the 25th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting (AMM), the regional organization formed the ASEAN Declaration of the South China Sea at Manila, Philippines. The Declaration was formed on the basis of the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) of 1976, which advocated non-violent means of dispute resolution. It was a significant milestone for ASEAN as China agreed to sign the document.

However, the competing claims resurfaced again in the mid-1990s. On 8 February 1995, Philippines observed the development of a militarised Mischief Reef. In the late 1990s, Philippines clashed with China at the Mischief Reef and the Scarborough Shoal.

A divided ASEAN?
Given Philippines’ proximity to the contested region, it raised the matter to ASEAN. Yet, not all ASEAN members held a similar position regarding the dispute. This was observed in the disagreements over Philippines’ proposal for a new code-of-conduct during the AMM in July 1999. Furthermore, most countries were occupied with their domestic matters, given the severity of the Asian Financial Crisis of July 1997.

Besides, Indonesia sought to pursue an alternative solution due to the lack of unanimity in ASEAN. In 1990, Indonesia conducted the Workshops on Managing Potential Conflicts in the South China Sea. The workshop functions on a ‘two-track diplomacy’: (a) regional cooperation between ASEAN and China (b) bilateral cooperation between claimant parties

This informal diplomacy did make significant contributions to the management of disputes as China was unwilling to work with multilateral arrangements.

ASEAN’s intervention II: Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC)
On 4 November 2002, ASEAN promulgated another landmark agreement, which was known as the DOC at Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The document was signed by both China and ASEAN.

Contents included the reaffirmed commitment to adhere to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), TAC and other international law. For example, “The Parties concerned undertake to resolve their territorial and jurisdictional disputes by peaceful means“.

What can we learn from this article?
Consider the following question:
– How successful was ASEAN managing the South China Sea dispute? [to be discussed in class].

In view of the above-mentioned points, you should attempt source-based case study questions to review your knowledge competency. Join our JC History Tuition to improve your answering skills. You can consider other JC tuition programmes, such as GP TuitionEconomics TuitionJC Chemistry TuitionJC Math Tuition and China Studies in English Tuition. For Secondary Tuition, we provide Secondary English TuitionSecondary Math tuitionSecondary Chemistry Tuition and Secondary Economics Tuition. Call 9689 0510 to learn more.