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Malaysia plans to build island on strategic Singapore Strait rocks

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Malaysia's prime minister said on Wednesday his government planned to enlarge Middle Rocks so as to form a small island.

[KUALA LUMPUR] Malaysia's prime minister said on Wednesday his government planned to develop some offshore rocks which were the subject of a territorial dispute with Singapore, days after he cancelled a big rail project with his southern neighbour.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) awarded the outcrop, known as Middle Rocks, near the opening of the Straits of Singapore, to Malaysia in 2008. At the same time, the Netherlands-based court ruled the nearby Pedra Branca island belonged to Singapore.

Malaysia's newly elected prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, told a news conference that Malaysia had already been building structures on Middle Rocks,Reuters reported.

"It is our intention to enlarge Middle Rocks so we can form a small island for us," he said.

Dr Mahathir declined to elaborate saying the plan had not been finalised.

The Singapore government did not immediately have a comment on the Malaysian plan to build on the rocks.

While Singapore has not been seeking to revive any claim to Middle Rocks, it is likely to keep a close eye on Malaysia's plan to develop the outcrop at the opening of one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.

Malaysian state news agency Bernama reported last year the opening of a maritime base called Abu Bakar on Middle Rocks.

The base comprises a jetty linking two main rocks - some 320 metres apart - a lighthouse and a helipad, a video posted on Facebook by the Sultan of the Malaysian state of Johor shows.

Malaysia has also withdrawn its applications to revise and to interpret a 2008 judgment by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that awarded sovereignty of Pedra Branca to Singapore.

In a statement on Wednesday, Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Malaysia had informed the ICJ on Monday that it would stop the proceedings that it had initiated earlier.

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