Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Tuesday the country aimed to regain control over a section of its airspace in the southern state of Johor which had been delegated to Singapore in stages between 2019 and 2023.
At a joint press conference following the 9th Malaysia-Singapore Leaders Retreat with his Singaporean counterpart Lee Hsien Loong, Mahathir explained the Operational Letter of Agreement 1974 (OLA) between the two countries concerning civil aviation under the recommendation of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
He added that Malaysia was at that time had inadequate air navigation facilities but had since invested significantly in air traffic control in preparing for the handover.
"Malaysia's objective is to take back the delegated airspace from Singapore in the area concerned in stages. Malaysia aims to do this within the time frame beginning the end of 2019 to the beginning of 2023.
In a joint statement, both leaders noted that a High Level Committee has been setup to review the Operational Letter of Agreement between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore Area Control Centers concerning Singapore Arrivals, Departures and Overflights signed in 1974.
Lee said Singapore had been careful in managing airspace and maritime boundary issues with its northern neighbor, noting that these would surface constantly.
"These are continuing issues because we will always have maritime boundaries with each other. We will always have civil aviation needs (and) both countries also have a need to agree on arrangements on managing airspace.
"So if it is managed well, then it can be productive for both countries and the whole relationship can prosper. If it is not managed well, it can cause a lot of trouble and poison the overall relationship," he said.
Over the weekend, Malaysia and Singapore reached an agreement on settling an airspace dispute on Saturday after several months of negotiations.
Singapore withdrew Instrument Landing System (ILS) procedures for its Seletar Airport and Malaysia indefinitely suspend its permanent Restricted Area (RA) in Pasir Gudang town in Johor state, just 2 km from Singapore.
The airspace dispute between the two sides began late last year when Singapore asked Firefly to move its flights from Changi Airport to the new Seletar Airport, and Firefly at first agreed but later said it would not move because the Malaysian civil aviation regulator did not approve it.
Malaysia objected to the move because Singapore installed the ILS at Seletar Airport which neighbors Malaysia's Pasir Gudang town, saying the system would hinder development of the town.
As a response, Malaysia announced a restricted zone in Pasir Gudang, affecting the flight path of airlines to and from Seletar Airport.
Besides friction over airspace, the two countries have been working to resolve problems with their maritime boundary and the price of water sold to Singapore by Malaysia.