ICJ awards Pedra Branca to Singapore

The International Court of Justice has awarded sovereignty of a strategic rocky outcrop in the Singapore Strait/South China Sea called Pedra Branca to Singapore, ending a 28-year dispute over the islet. Singapore, which has maintained sovereignty for over 150 years (including under the British colonial government), had argued that it should continue to hold sovereignty.

The ICJ’s 16-member bench voted 12-4 in favour of awarding Singapore sovereignty, although they also voted 15-1 to award sovereignty over two of Pedra Branca’s outcrops, Middle Rocks and South Ledge, to the country in whose territorial waters these lie. In the case of Middle Rocks, it is Malaysia, although the waters around South Ledge, remain under negotiation pending the delineation of the maritime boundaries surrounding Pedra Branca (which Malaysia calls “Pulau Batu Puteh” ā€” both names mean “White Rock”) and the Middle Rocks.

This is a major blow to Malaysia’s embattled Prime Minister, Mr Abdullah Badawi, who has come under a lot of pressure in recent days. It will be interesting to see how the two countries react.

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