SINGAPORE (Dec 17): It is probably safe to say now that Dr Mahathir Mohamad has not changed his attitude towards Singapore. And, for as long as he is prime minister of Malaysia, bilateral relations between the two countries are likely to be rocky.

Over the past few weeks, Malaysia has complained about Singapore’s plan to introduce an Instrument Landing System at Seletar Airport, on the grounds it would result in planes flying at a low enough altitude over Pasir Gudang to impede the development of the industrial area. On the other hand, Singapore is outraged by Malaysia “unilaterally and arbitrarily” extending the Johor Bahru port limits into its waters. Malaysian vessels have also repeatedly encroached into Singapore waters.

Most observers have little doubt that the two matters are related. Lawrence Loh, deputy head of strategy and policy department at the National University of Singapore, likens these moves to the hardball negotiating tactics US President Donald Trump has adopted in negotiating trade deals with other countries. “He wants a better deal from Singapore. Everything else is on the table now — airspace and water, two raw nerves for Singapore,” Loh says.

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