The US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS John S McCain after a collision in Singapore waters on Monday. Picture: REUTERS
The US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS John S McCain after a collision in Singapore waters on Monday. Picture: REUTERS

Kuala Lumpur — A collision between a US warship and an oil tanker near the Straits of Malacca has shone a light on a territorial dispute that has simmered between neighbours Singapore and Malaysia for nearly 40 years.

The destroyer USS John S McCain collided with merchant vessel Alnic MC to the east of Singapore on Monday while heading to the city-state for a routine port call.

Ten US sailors are missing and five were injured in the collision, which resulted in significant damage to the hull of the US vessel and the flooding of some of its compartments.

Singapore and Malaysia each said the incident took place in their territorial waters, as the warship and oil tanker collided near the rocky outcrop of Pedra Branca, which has long been contested by the countries. The International Court of Justice ruled in 2008 that Pedra Branca belonged to Singapore and a nearby feature, Middle Rocks, belonged to Malaysia. Malaysia sought a review of the ruling in 2017, reopening the dispute.

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore said it was notified just before dawn of the collision in "Singapore territorial waters", and Singapore was leading search operations.

Malaysia insisted the incident happened in its waters.

The Malaysian navy assigned four vessels and a Super Lynx helicopter for the search and rescue, while the Malaysian armed forces and maritime authorities also deployed more assets. The Indonesian navy said it had deployed two warships.

Reuters

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