WHEN the Foreign Ministry's Secretary-General, Ahmad Kamil Jaafar, said on Friday that Malaysia had always encouraged 'peaceful means and negotiations' to resolve issues, he was referring to the tension between China and Taiwan - but his remark could equally be applied to the territorial disputes his country had with Beijing, Singapore and Jakarta. The quarrel with Indonesia was given new life last week when it was reported from Jakarta that two islands claimed by Malaysia had been included in a new map of Indonesian territory. But the Malaysian Foreign Ministry chose to remain silent. The Malaysians have been careful not to let any of their three rows over sovereignty, involving two countries in their immediate backyard and the biggest cause of anxiety in the region, get out of hand. This is not to say Kuala Lumpur has not been outspoken in defence of its claims, which stem from its geographical reach from the Straits of Malacca in the west across the South China Sea to the Sea of Sulawesi. Neither side has shown any signs of backing down over who owns the islands, Sipadan and Ligitan, which are off the east coast of the island of Borneo, outward from the land boundary dividing the East Malaysian state of Sabah and Indonesian Kalimantan. The Malaysians say the islands were part of the British colony of North Borneo. North Borneo, now Sabah, and Sarawak later joined up with Malaya in the Federation of Malaysia. The Indonesians say the islands were included in maps of the Netherlands East Indies, which became Indonesia, based on an 1891 Anglo-Dutch accord. History is also invoked in Malaysia's conflict with Singapore, which has tradition on its side in the case of the territory in question, a piece of rock on which the Horsburgh Lighthouse stands, called Pedra Branca in the island republic and Pulau Batu Putih in Kuala Lumpur. Singapore says it has administered the island for more than 150 years. But the Malaysians point out that Pulau Batu Putih is closer to Malaysia, being 55 kilometres east of Singapore and 15 km from the coast of the Malaysian state of Johor. But Singapore is less of a worry to Malaysia than the giant power to the north, which disputes the Malaysian claim to some of the Spratly Islands. Malaysia is among six countries with overlapping claims to the Spratlys, over all of which China has proclaimed its sovereignty. The 'Malaysian' islands, about 320 km north of the Sabah coast, include Terumbu Layang Layang, which is being developed into a tourist resort for divers. The Malaysian chief of the armed forces, General Che Mohamad Noor, last year expressed wariness about Beijing's statements on the Spratlys. But Kuala Lumpur maintains the official position stated by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad - that it does not see China as a threat - while keeping an anxious watch on events in the Taiwan Strait.