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LKP accuses Moon of abandoning the NLL

Sept 22,2018
South Korea’s main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) bashed President Moon Jae-in Friday for caving in to Pyongyang on an agreement to create a buffer zone in the disputed Yellow Sea, accusing him of surrendering the Northern Limit Line (NLL).

At issue was a part of a military agreement signed by the two Koreas’ defense ministers on Wednesday during the third summit between Moon and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang. One of the eight major points in the agreement said that the countries will create a 135-kilometer (83.8 miles) buffer zone in the Yellow Sea, in which artillery fire drills and field training exercises will be prohibited by either side. The area, in effect, will become a “sea of peace,” Seoul’s Ministry of National Defense said in a press release.

The two also agreed to put covers on the barrels of artillery based near the zone and on guns of ships traveling through it to prevent accidental armed clashes.

But South Korean conservatives insist the government gave away too much because the South’s part of the buffer zone is 35 kilometers larger than the North’s, based on the NLL. Approximately 85 kilometers of the buffer zone is in southern waters while 50 kilometers cover northern waters.

North Korea refuses to acknowledge the NLL, contending it was unilaterally drawn by the American-led United Nation forces after the 1950-53 Korean War without its consent and has called for its own maritime border line to be recognized, drawn further south.

An official at Seoul’s Ministry of National Defense denied accusations that the military was giving up on the NLL, saying Thursday that the 135-kilometer buffer zone was drawn by both Koreas to prevent accidental clashes. The official continued that the South was still allowed to run security operations along the NLL. Another official stressed Friday that South Korea’s principle was that “no one can touch” the NLL, implying Seoul’s unchanged stance that the NLL still represented the Yellow Sea maritime border.

The maritime border in the Yellow Sea has been the site of many inter-Korean naval clashes, including two battles known as the Yeongpyeong battles of 1999 and 2002.

While the South was spared casualties in the first Yeonpyeong battle, it lost six men in the 2002 battle and one patrol boat. Up to 30 North Koreans were estimated killed in the first battle while 13 were estimated dead in the second.

The sinking of the naval warship Cheonan in the Yellow Sea in March 2010 by a North Korean torpedo attack, for which Pyongyang denies responsibility, raised the stakes in protecting the maritime border.

LKP floor leader Kim Sung-tae said Friday that Moon ceded South Korean territorial sovereignty.

Moon “completely disarmed [the South] and failed to receive a single word of apology for the Cheonan warship attack or Yeonpyeong battles, let alone the fact he [overlooked] the strategic value of the northwest islands, including Baengnyeong Island,” said Kim. The opposition floor leader said he feared South Korean military troops in the region will have to withdraw since they’ve been forbidden to carry out any drills.

The far-right LKP is negative about the Pyongyang Declaration Moon signed with Kim Jong-un this week, calling it a “distraction” North Korea was trying to use in order to avoid denuclearization.

“Only North Korea’s demands were accepted in the summit,” LKP floor leader Kim said Thursday.

“President Moon called for a Korean Peninsula free from the fear of war,” he continued. “But we have to recognize the fact that we still have nuclear weapons here on this peninsula.”

Rep. Kim Byung-joon, interim leader of the LKP, said Thursday no progress was made on the denuclearization issue and that the Pyongyang Declaration only undermined the South’s defense readiness.

BY KANG JIN-KYU, LEE SUNG-EUN [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]


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