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Moon seeks to scrap Jeju naval base project

Posted November. 12, 2012 05:56,   


The main opposition Democratic United Party has demanded the removal of the entire budget of 290 billion won (270 million U.S. dollars) earmarked for the construction of a naval base on Jeju Island for next year. The party blocked the parliamentary defense committee from passing the budget bill Friday. Visiting Jeju Thursday, the party`s presidential candidate Moon Jae-in said, “The project to build the Jeju naval base should be halted now, and we will re-examine the content of the project in accordance with democratic procedures.” This bid spearheaded by Moon and backed by his party is intended to sway and halt the project.

A plan on the base project was finalized in June 2007, and construction began in 2010. Former President Roh Moo-hyun said at that time, “The Jeju naval base is an essential element for national defense,” thus flatly denying opposition by critics. Moon assisted Roh in making key decisions as his presidential chief of staff in 2007. In July this year, Moon also said, “The Jeju naval base is necessary to ensure national security interests.” He, however, has apparently changed his mind due to pressure by forces opposed to the project. So what did he exactly mean when he said, “I`m confident that I`m the candidate who can handle national security best,” while visiting the inter-Korean immigration office of the Donghae Railway a week before urging the suspension of the base project?

As evidenced by North Korea’s 2010 sinking of the South Korean naval corvette Cheonan and shelling of the South Korean frontline island Yeonpyeong in the Yellow Sea, Pyongyang mainly launches strikes at sea. For Seoul to effectively deter further aggression, it must integrate its naval forces scattered in many locations and deploy them systematically. The Jeju base is also urgently needed for the country given the boosting of naval forces by China and Japan. At the National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party on Thursday, Chinese President Hu Jintao said, “It is a strategic obligation to build a strong military that lives up to our international status and conforms to our interests in national security and development.”

Moon’s bid to suspend the Jeju base project has led to skepticism over his view of national security. The base will be South Korea`s southernmost naval base designed to protect waters across the Dokdo islets and Ieo Island, and safeguard maritime routes through which export and import freight of the country passes. If North Korea speaks highly of Moon because it calls him "the most suitable as the next president” due to his election pledges for passive national security, this is grave problem. Independent candidate Ahn Cheol-soo said, “I cannot agree on the conclusion that the Jeju base is necessary for the sake of national security,” but added, “If elected president, I will carefully listen to residents’ views once again and make an apology.” This pledge sounds flexible but is unclear, as if intended to avoid critiques by those who are opposed to the project.