[EDITORIALS]Sea Policy's Northern Tilt

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[EDITORIALS]Sea Policy's Northern Tilt

We have been perplexed watching the differences between Seoul and Pyongyang in their handling of intrusions into their respective territorial waters during past 10 days. The South guided the North Korean ships that violated the Northern Limit Line and the Cheju Strait in early June safely through its territorial waters. On the other hand, the North opened fire at a South Korean fishing boat, the Suseong 15, which was allegedly pushed by currents across the Northern Limit Line in the East Sea in late May.

The South Korean government hastily announced that it would allow the North Korean ships to pass through its territorial waters upon prior notice, as if it feared the North would be disturbed without such a measure. Yet an armed ship which apparently was accompanying northern fishing boats, fired at the Suseong 15 in line with its rules of engagement, because Suseong 15 rejected the North's order to moor the ship.

The North did not respond to our invitation to negotiate a maritime agreement in order to allow for mutual passage through each other's waters. Neither did Pyongyang accept our proposal to hold a secretary-level meeting of the Military Armistice Commission to discuss the issues involving the Northern Limit Line. On the other hand, Seoul reportedly plans to punish the captain of the Suseong 15 for violating the line rather than demanding that the North not repeat such armed provocations. Seoul had legal justification for its action against the southern captain, but it is difficult to understand why, concerning the same issue of the Northern Limit Line, it punished its own and treated the northern boats leniently. Furthermore, Seoul covered up the collision of a naval vessel with a northern ship for four days. If Seoul deliberately concealed the incident because it fears criticism in the press for not respecting the law, the problem is even more serious.

Seoul should show determination to guard its territorial rights so long as the North does not accept our proposals; that is the only way they will understand that equity and reciprocity must be maintained, and only then will the North accept Seoul's practical solutions.
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