North Korea’s Unlawful Acts

Original source: Akahata (Japan)

North Korea made its first attack on South Korean territory since the ceasefire ended the Korean War in 1953. Although an attack on the South by a North Korean special armed unit, an accidental gunfight near their military boundary, and an engagement between warships had taken place, North Korea had never before attacked civilian residential zones in South Korea. It is clearly against the Korean War Armistice Agreement and South-North agreements in which North Korea itself is party to.

In the Joint Communique issued on July 4, 1972, North and South Korea “agreed upon refraining from slandering and calumniating the other side and from committing armed provocations, big or small, and upon taking active measures for preventing incidents of unexpected military conflicts.” The communique concluded with the following resolution: “Firmly believing that the points of agreement mentioned above conform to the unanimous desire of the whole nation which aspires after national reunification, feeling as if days are so many years, the two sides solemnly promise to the whole nation to honestly fulfill these points of agreement.”

The Agreement on Reconciliation, Nonaggression, and Exchanges and Cooperation between South and North Korea, which entered into force in 1992, expressed, “South and North Korea shall together endeavour to transform the present state of armistice into a firm state of peace between the two sides and shall abide by the present Military Armistice Agreement until such a state of peace is realized.”

As concrete means to guarantee nonaggression, the agreement prohibits the two parties from conducting any form of armed attack against each other or staging armed provocation that could cause damages to their counterpart.

In 2000, North Korea published the “Order of Navigating to and from Five Islands,” and acknowledged Yonphyong Island and the waters around the island as within South Korea’s territory. The latest attack thus clearly goes against the North-South agreement.

In 2009, North Korea unilaterally announced that “all the agreed points concerning the issue of putting an end to the political and military confrontation between the north and the south will be nullified.”

Sudden change in stance on NLL

Yeonpyeong Island, attacked by North Korea on November 23, has been controlled by South Korea for 57 years since the ceasefire of the Korean War (1950~1953).

The Korean War Armistice Agreement, concluded in July 1953, agreed to establish “an armistice which will insure a complete cessation of hostilities and of all acts of armed force in Korea until a final peaceful settlement is achieved.” The military boundary (the 38th parallel) was established on land.

Policy reversed in the 90s

Both sides also agreed to withdraw troops from other coastal islands occupied by either of the two sides at the time of June 24, the eve of the Korean War, and decided to have Paengyong-do, Taechong-do, Sochong-do, Yonpyong-do, and U-do remain under the control of South Korea.

However, the Armistice Agreement avoided drawing the coastal boundary line. Therefore, the UN Command in South Korea in August set the northern limit line (NLL) as a Military Demarcation Line.

Until the mid-90s, North Korea had given tacit approval to the NLL. According to the ROK government, the Korean Central Yearbook published by the Korean Central News Agency in 1959 includes a map drawn with this NLL (Dong-a Ilbo of October 1, 1999).

The 1992 South-North Korea agreement confirms nonaggression between the two sides. As for the coastal boundary line, it stipulates, “The South-North demarcation line and the areas for nonaggression shall be identical with the Military Demarcation Line provided in the Military Armistice Agreement of July 27, 1953, and the areas that each side has exercised jurisdiction over until the present time.”

In the 1990s, North Korea began insisting that the NLL “is invalid” by citing the U.N. Convention on Law of the Sea which stipulates that 12 nautical miles from the baseline is a coastal state’s territorial waters. In June 1999, a North Korean torpedo boat advanced southward beyond the NLL and fired at South Korean vessels. South Korean troops launched a counterattack in response and sank two North Korean warships, the first Yeonpyeong Battle.

In September of the same year, the Korean People’s Army Chief of the General Staff unilaterally drew the military demarcation line in the West Sea of Korea (the Yellow Sea) and proclaimed as invalid the NLL set by the U.N. force and the South Korean troops. The Navy Command of the Korean People’s Army in March 2000 issued a communique “on declaring ‘order of navigating to and from the five islands’ as a follow-up measure related to the fixing of the Military Demarcation Line at the West Sea of Korea.”

The communique states that military and civilian vessels of the U.S. forces and the South Korean military can be “free to navigate” in waters around the five islands.

Intensified military tension in the Yellow Sea

This policy change by North Korea has intensified military tension and caused frequent armed conflicts in the Yellow Sea.

In June 2002, warships of both sides again engaged in a battle off Yeonpyeong Island, the second Yeonpyeong Battle. One South Korean warship was sunk and six South Korean soldiers were killed.

In November 2009, both sides fought a gun battle. In March 2010 a South Korean patrol boat, Cheonan, was sunk and 46 sailors died. The South Korean investigative team later announced that the Cheonan was sunk as the result of a torpedo fired by North Korea.

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