Washington International Law Journal


The Strait of Malacca, located between Indonesia and Malaysia, and opening into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Singapore, is not only one of the world's busiest and most vital waterways, but also a likely target for maritime terrorists. High levels of piracy and the presence of numerous regional terrorist organizations suggest the Strait is particularly vulnerable to a maritime terrorist attack. Such an attack would significantly disrupt international trade and could inflict billions of dollars in damage to the global economy. Primary responsibility for the security of the Strait lies with the coastal states of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. Despite recent efforts by the coastal states to improve security in the Strait, sustained piracy rates indicate such efforts have had a limited effect. Although Singapore has expressed a willingness to consider additional steps, Malaysia and Indonesia have refused to take further steps to improve security, such as implementing joint patrols or allowing for the presence of extra-regional forces, arguing such steps infringe upon their sovereignty. Current international piracy and maritime terrorism laws do not provide an effective mechanism for addressing the security threat in the Strait or for encouraging Malayasia and Indonesia to take additional available steps. Emerging international terrorism law, however, may impose liability on Malaysia and Indonesia for a maritime terrorist attack in the Strait unless they improve the security of this vital international shipping route.

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