Singapore’s Defence Ministry claims that its fighter jets were flying in Malaysian airspace as part of a multinational exercise, which was hosted by Malaysia, and that all parties were duly notified. 

Exercise Bersama Gold, which ran between October 4-18, 2021, was part of the Five Power Defence Agreements, consisting of Malaysia, Singapore, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand and involved militaries from all five countries. 

On October 19, 2021, Malaysian parliamentarian Hassan Abdul Karim called for an investigation into “airspace invasions” by Singaporean fighter jets that have been noticed above the state of Johor, which neighbors Singapore. 

According to Karim, local residents have complained about the intrusions, but the federal government has taken no action to stop violations.

“I also called on both the Foreign Ministry and Defence Ministry to investigate the incident of Malaysian airspace invasion by foreign aircraft,” Hassan is quoted by Malaysian newspaper Malay Mail.

Several islands to the south of Johor have been the subject of a long-running territorial dispute between Malaysia and Singapore. 

In 2018, the new Malaysian administration decided to drop its claims to a small island called Pedra Branca or Pulau Batu Puteh, effectively surrendering it to Singapore. The decision has spurred discontent amongst the Malaysian public, and has spurred Karim to call for the government to review the decision.

In the statement, the Ministry of Defence of Singapore also revealed that it had obtained the necessary approval before entering Malaysian airspace, and that the flights were publicly announced beforehand by both Malaysian and Singaporean civil aviation authorities.