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Military Issues Northern Limit Line Gag Order

Posted October. 17, 2007 03:20,   


Amid rising controversy over President Roh Moo-hyun’s remark, “The Northern Limit Line (NLL) in the West Sea is not a territorial line,” top military commanders have ordered naval units responsible for guarding the disputed line to remain silent about the NLL issue.

Shortly after President Roh made the statement last Thursday, senior defense officials instructed the commanders and military personnel of the 2nd Fleet in charge of protecting the West Sea to refrain from commenting on the NLL and related matters, according to military sources on Tuesday.

“Although there has been a considerable controversy over the NLL, it is unprecedented (for top military figures) to give specific guidelines to units under their command. The move is viewed as a desperate countermeasure to prevent the military from being involved in the NLL dispute, which has been sparked by President Roh’s remarks. Top military officials, including Defense Minister Kim Jang-soo and ROK Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Kim Gwan-jin firmly believe that the military must protect the NLL, the de facto maritime border and territorial line. However, as far as I know, they have taken into account that skepticism in the army over President Roh’s statement may put pressure on the commander in chief and can be viewed as insubordination,” said one military official.

However, there are concerns that the gag order given to units that fought the Yeonpyeong Naval Battle in 1999 and the West Sea Battle in 2002 to protect the NLL will negatively affect the morale of soldiers defending the line.

In 2002, a high-speed vessel unit of the 2nd Fleet engaged in a gun battle with a North Korean patrol ship that crossed the NLL and attacked a South Korean high-speed military boat. A total of six South Korean soldiers were killed by the enemy`s indiscriminate attack, including lieutenant commander Yoon Yeong-ha.

“The gag order by top military figures is evidence that this dispute is a very sensitive issue. However, a majority of military personnel believe that the military must stand firm in protecting the NLL, no matter what,” another military source said.

The headquarters of the 2nd Fleet in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, has a memorial stone in honor of the soldiers who lost their lives during the West Sea Battle. Although the 2nd Fleet holds an annual memorial for the deceased soldiers, President Roh has never attended the ceremony during his term.