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[Editorial] At the Risk of the Minister’s Position?

Posted June. 15, 2001 07:56,   


Followed by the incident on 13th, a North Korean ship crossed the Northern Limit Line (NLL) again Thursday night. This was the seventh incident in this month. Kim Dong-Shin Minister of National Defense said at the National Assembly a week ago that ``I will take a strong measure, including the use of force, at the risk of the position of minister, if North Korean ships cross the territorial waters of the NLL.`` However, the infringement of the NLL by a North Korean ship `Nampo II` Wednesday night turned the Minister Kim’s words a groundless statement.

Although Minister Kim also said Thursday that ``if North Korean ship crosses the NLL again, we plan to shoot the warning fire,`` his statement turned out to be empty words as another North Korean merchant ship `Nampo` crossed the NLL. National Defense Minister’s consecutive empty words not only discourage the military morale but also accentuate the public distrust for national security. With regard to the sailing of `Nampo II` alongside the NLL 5 miles of south of the East Sea for 20 hours, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS)’s explanation was the following; `Nampo II` immediately responded to the Navy’s radio inspection; `Nampo II` `accommodated` to the Navy’s request as it changed the direction toward east and headed south after having sailed toward the NLL end point (218 miles). However, the Navy should have pushed the North Korean ship toward the north of the NLL according to the Minister Kim’s promise. Moreover, the NLL zone crossed by `Nampo II` is 35 miles east from the Jeojin Port in Kangwon Province. The Ministry of National Defense stated that it divided the NLL into the ROK’s Navy’s Core Defense Area and the international waters in due consideration of the Navy’s operation competency and the North Korean army’s activity. The 35 miles of east zone is under the `core defense area`. Our Navy left the North Korean ship which `intruded` the core defense area since it `accommodated` to the Navy’s request.

Some scholars insist that the passing of the NLL by North Korea ships was simply a `crossing` since the NLL does not have any ground in the international law and it was lined by the UN military headquarters. However, the NLL has played the role of maritime borderline between South and North for 40 years. It is unconvincing for the government to act as if it abandons the NLL which our army has defended with their lives at stake. This is why the alleged secret agreement between South and North is repeatedly questioned. Although South-North relationship has been improved to some extent, we should keep what we have to keep before gaining a complete security. Sunshine policy should remain as Sunshine policy, while national security should be kept as national security.