[EDITORIALS]North’s ships in our waters

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[EDITORIALS]North’s ships in our waters

Since the North-South Agreement on Maritime Transportation took effect in August 2005, the National Intelligence Service has notified the Unification Ministry that 20 ships out of the 144 that passed through South Korean territorial waters were suspect because they had transported weapons in the past. But the Unification Ministry ignored all those reports and inspected none of the ships. That is outrageous.
The Unification Ministry would like to distance itself from any actions that might aggravate North Korea. But it should set standards; Pyongyang not only has nuclear weapons but also a large number of weapons of mass destruction, including chemical and biological weapons. The North Korean vess-els that passed through our waters might have been looking for ways to deliver the weapons to our southern coast in wartime. North Korea’s ships have also been involved in illegal acts in the past, such as transporting narcotics. Neglecting those possibilities means forfeiting our national security and abandoning our international duty.
We are not asking for indiscriminate searches of North Korean ships. But at least ships that are suspected of participating in such acts should be looked at. If the vessels plying our waters are later found to have been involved in transporting weapons of mass destruction, narcotics or counterfeit currency, South Korea’s prestige will be ruined and cooperation with the North will be more diff-icult. The Unification Ministry must know this better than anyone else.
In fact, Seoul’s prestige has already fallen. The administration has already turned down the U.S. request for South Korea’s active participation in the Proliferation Security Initiative after the United Nations sanctions were announced.
Instead, Seoul promised that it would fully inspect North Korean vessels according to the North-South Agreement on Maritime Transportation. Who will believe our government’s promises now?
The minister of unification also heads the National Security Council. Is it correct for such an agency to be unconcerned about national security and international reliability while defending North Korea’s own interests? Does the ministry know that people have a cynical view of it these days, saying that its recent actions are due to worries that it might lose its influence if relations go badly with Pyongyang?
The Unification Ministry must reform itself to work with responsibility.
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