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Considering NK Ships Passage Of Cheju Straits

Posted June. 05, 2001 19:58,   


On North Korean commercial ship Taehongdan having moved out of the South`s territory, the government operates various North Korean channels to solve the problem of the NK`s passage through the Cheju Straits by the inter-Korean dialogues and negotiations.

The government has also set up some principles on this matter. The South will strictly responds to the North Korean ships` crossing of NLL without permission, but will allow the passage of the North Korean freighter ships through the Cheju Island Straits. And the government is to move forward to the establishment of the Inter-Korean Maritime Agreement through the South-North authorities dialogues.

A high authority of the government said yesterday, ``Chances are 50-50 that the North Korean commercial vessels intentionally intruded into the South Korean territory or they did it by mistake due to the ignorance of the procedure.`` He also added, ``The South needs to move on with a tolerance to comprehend a mistake. If we wisely solve this problem, it would be very helpful for the recovery of the inter-Korean credibility.``

However, the government is to deal with the NLL intrusion and the NK merchant ships passage of the Cheju Straits separately. The South government is to allow `the innocent passage` through the Cheju channel when the North notifies or requests the permission in advance. However, the government will strongly respond to the intrusion of NLL, regarding it as the violation of the Armistice Agreement.

The government also considers allowing the North Korean commercial vessels` crossing of the NLL from the South to the North.

The Cheongcheonggang, the fifth North Korean cargo vessel heading to the Cheju Straits, detoured through the southern route of the Cheju Island and is on a voyage to Nampo.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff headquarters revealed that the Cheongcheonggang (13,900 tons), which was carrying 10,000 tons of rice from Hokkaido, had approached nearby the Cheju channel but voluntarily changed its route and detoured toward the southeast route of Cheju Island.

An official of the Joint Chiefs of Staff headquarters said yesterday, ``It was anticipated that the Cheongcheonggang would follow the route of the Cheongjin No. 2. But P3C the antisubmarine patrol aircraft of the ROK Navy detected the ship navigating on the open waters, 72 km south-east from Cheju Island, at 9:00 a.m.``

The Taehongdan, which had intruded into the Cheju Straits on June 4, also moved out to the open waters yesterday and is on the way to the North. The Kuksabong No.1, which once headed down to the Ullung Island, also turned its way to Japan.

A military source said, ``the captain of the Taehongdan had expressed, on the radio communication with the Korean maritime police, that, when he passes through the Cheju Straits, he will notify in advance. That is the different from the position of the North in the past.``

Lee Chol-Hi klimt@donga.com