[EDITORIALS]Challenge All North Korean VesselsA North Korean fishing boat retreated after the South Korean Navy fired a warning salvo after the vessel crossed the Northern Limit Line in the Yellow Sea Sunday. The patrol ships ordered the boat to stop, but the order was ignored. The navy said nine shots were fired after three verbal warnings. At last, the navy has properly responded to intrusions by North Korean ships into our waters, according to wartime regulations and rules of engagement stipulated by the United Nations Command.
Until now, the government had argued that firing at unarmed civilian ships could lead to a crisis and the economy would collapse as a result. Seoul had also expressed concern over international criticism and put forth the right to innocent passage. According to such arguments, the navy should not have responded to the North Korean fishing boat with such a show of force. This time, however, the government and the ruling party are praising the countermeasures as appropriate in showing our will to protect our waters. Is permitting large vessels that are difficult to confront passage through our waters and using force against small boats really showing our will?
The military said the navy fired warning shots because the crew on the fishing boat resisted naval patrol boats by throwing torch fires and threatening them with iron pipes, whereas commercial ships that intruded over the last few weeks offered no resistance. However, this explanation is difficult to swallow. Is a commercial ship moving forward with its big body as a weapon, disregarding orders to stop, stating "This is a waterway that General Kim Jong-il opened," conveying that it is not resisting?
The navy should have responded to the commercial ships in the same way it did with the fishing boat. The government should have then resolved practical matters related to the passage through our waters and the NLL by negotiating with the North. As long as maritime agreements are not forged separately with the North, the military should in the future oppose North Korean ships intruding into our waters and the NLL according to principles as with the fishing boat.
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