Keeping the navy sharpAgainst the backdrop of heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula and repeated nuclear threats from the North, South Korean naval forces yesterday held a ceremony commemorating the 10th anniversary of the first naval battle between the two Koreas on the Yellow Sea near Yeonpyeong Island.
The Second Fleet at Pyeongtaek Port, which successfully defended Korea against the North Korean attack, has refreshed its determination to protect the Northern Limit Line, the country’s maritime border.
“The naval clash in June 1999 was the first inter-Korean military battle since the Korean War [1950-53], that ended in victory for us,” Jung Ok-keun, the Navy’s chief of staff, said at the ceremony. “We have to remember that a third clash could happen at any time,” he added, emphasizing that the South should be ready to fight and win if such an event should occur. The second confrontation took place in June 2002.
The security alert level here has been increasing following repeated threats of military and nuclear activity from the North in defiance of tough sanctions from the United Nations Security Council.
North Korea has refused to respect the NLL and has frequently ventured beyond the sea border to provoke the South. It fired shots and provoked gun battles in the disputed waters both in 1999 and again in 2002. Recently, it has stepped up its naval training to include firing and shore landing operations along the Yellow Sea coast.
As Navy Chief of Staff Jung warned, we cannot speak lightly about the possibility of further military provocations from the North.
We can deter such provocations only when we are fully prepared.
The naval forces’ anniversary ceremony provides us with an opportunity for self-examination as well as an alert against the next possible attack from the North. The South cannot afford to let its guard down, considering the fatal casualties we suffered in the second clash.
The 2002 confrontation is reported to have generated losses for the South because its naval forces failed to react with flexibility in the field due to excessive interference from senior security officials.
South Korean naval forces have now been licensed by senior defense officials to “act accordingly in the field” in the event of a North Korean attack.
Our forces must display confidence and determination, and we must be equipped with the ability to defeat the North so that it won’t dare to provoke us.
In such precarious times, we need to applaud and support our soldiers for risking their lives to keep our land and waters peaceful.