[EDITORIALS]Time for Maritime Tough Love

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[EDITORIALS]Time for Maritime Tough Love

Tension between the two Koreas that arose when North Korean cargo ships trespassed into South Korean waters from different directions, began to abate yesterday. The fourth North Korean vessel, after passing through the Cheju Strait, voluntarily changed its course to the open sea, and the fifth, which approached the strait, turned to avoid our waters. But it remains to be seen what comes next.

There are lessons to be learned for the government and the military from the painful experience that developed due to their clumsy initial response. First, security and national sovereignty are precious values, and should in no way be compromised in order to maintain the sunshine policy. Fortunately but belatedly, the defense minister said at a cabinet meeting that the military would take stern measures according to its operational rules and strategic regulations should a North Korean vessel intrude again.

Through this incident, the North has actually earned the right to navigate through South Korean waters on the condition of advance notice and permission. An inter-Korean consultation is imperative in order to work out the details. The government has already proposed talks to the North for the adoption of a maritime agreement. The North should come forth to consult on the technical details of such an agreement. We cannot accept their behavior of spurning dialogue while sporadically sending their ships into our waters. If such talks are held, there are two principles the government should abide by. First, the right of innocent passage and the Northern Limit Line are two separate matters. The Northern Limit Line is a life line drawn in 1953 in conjunction with the armistice agreement in order to consolidate security in our seas. The government should not be drawn into the North's scheme to shake up the armistice agreement by revoking the Northern Limit Line. We can allow passage through the Cheju Strait with prior notice, but the sea demarcation line should be firmly enforced. Second is the question of reciprocity. If we allow North Korean vessels to transit our waters, our vessels should also be allowed to pass through North Korean waters. That would also be in line with a spirit of exchange and cooperation.

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