Navy rebuts claims by left-wing priest on NLL

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Navy rebuts claims by left-wing priest on NLL

Amid lingering outrage over a leftist Catholic priest’s defense of North Korea during an “emergency Mass” on Friday, related government institutions have scrambled to clarify a string of misleading information the priest delivered during his sermon.

During the Mass, conducted by the radical Catholic Priests’ Association for Justice at a cathedral in Gunsan, North Jeolla, Park Chang-sin made seemingly supportive comments about North Korea’s deadly shelling on Yeonpyeong Island in November 2010. He also touched on several political issues and condemned the conservative administrations of President Park Geun-hye and former President Lee Myung-bak.

The South Korean navy rebutted the claim made by Father Park, a senior Catholic priest from the Jeonju diocese, that the result of the South Korean government’s investigation into the sinking of the Cheonan naval vessel in March 2010 was distorted.

The result of the probe and general consensus shows that the accident was caused by a North Korean torpedo.

“Can you believe the allegation that a North Korean warship torpedoed our ship while there were three Aegis destroyers - each known to have 1,000 eyes - participating in the Korea-U.S. drills?” Father Park said during the Mass. “If that is true, we say, ‘Wow, North Korea has such cutting-edge technology.’”

In response, the South Korean navy told the JoongAng Ilbo that there was only one Aegis destroyer - the King Sejong - which the navy was operating in March three years ago, and that the single vessel was not even located in the West Sea.

Although South Korea has three Aegis destroyers now, production of the other two were not completed back in 2010, the navy said.

In addition, Father Park’s claim that the disputed Northern Limit Line (NLL) is irrelevant to North Korea also turned out to be far from the truth.

“You know, the Northern Limit Line was temporarily drawn by the United Nations Command to prevent our military from invading North Korean territory … The line is not related to North Korea, and it was not mentioned in the armistice treaty. It is not a military demarcation line at all,” Father Park said in his sermon.

However, officials argued that the senior priest merely repeated a North Korean talking point, which has denied the existence of the NLL for political purposes. Under the treaty agreed upon by North and South Korea in 1991, their non-aggression area and border follows the military demarcation line as well as the areas controlled by both parties, which is defined in the armistice signed in 1953.

North Korea recognized the NLL as a maritime demarcation border, but abruptly reversed its stance in 1999, nullifying the NLL without any discussion with the South.

BY SEO JI-EUN, LEE SO-A [spring@joongang.co.kr]

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