An article by Jong Kil Song, Research Fellow, Institute for Disarmament and Peace, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, DPRK

Recently there was another spark of flames on the hotspots in the West Sea of Korea.

The south Korean military ships intruded into the territorial waters of the DPRK in the West Sea and fired machine guns at a navy ferryboat of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) which was on a routine duty.

It is a quite dangerous and provocative military manoeuvre that directly challenges the DPRK’s positive and sincere efforts.

In his historic report made at the 7th Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), the respected Chairman Kim Jong Un has advanced fair and realistic proposals for peace and security on the Korean peninsula and improvement of the inter-Korean relations. He pointed out that the north and the south should take substantial measures to remove military tension and danger of conflict, particularly along the Military Demarcation Line and in the hotspots of the West Sea.

As military trust builds up between the north and the south, the scope of this measure can be expanded.

The proposal gives great hopes to the whole fellow countrymen and the international community who aspires to peace and security on the Korean peninsula.

Why was there another spark of flames on the hotspots of the West Sea of Korea against the wishes for peace cherished by the Korean people and the international community?

What makes this area the hottest spot for more than half a century?

That is due to the existence of illegal “Northern Limit Line” (“NLL”) in the West Sea of Korea unilaterally drawn by the US in the 1950s.

Whole process of fabrication of the “NLL”

The Korean War ignited by the US in 1950 was temporarily suspended with conclusion of the Korean Armistice Agreement (KAA) on July 27, 1953.

However, at the time of its conclusion the KAA stipulated the military demarcation lines on the ground and in the East Sea of Korea whereas the agreement failed to stipulate the military line in the West Sea of Korea.

Paragraph 13-b, Article II of the KAA stipulated that “All the islands lying to the north and west of the provincial boundary line between Hwanghae Province and Kyonggi Province shall be under the military control of the Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army, except the island groups of Paengyong Island, Taechong Island, Sochong Island, Yonpyong Island, and U Island.”

As stipulated in the KAA, the jurisdiction over the five islands was clearly stated but not a military demarcation line in the sea.

Accordingly, “Map 3”, which is one of 22 Maps attached to the KAA, marked only the control over the five island groups but did not draw a demarcation line in the sea.

On August 30, 1953, 40 days after conclusion of the KAA, Mark W. Clark, the then Commander–in–chief of the “United Nations Command”, defined as “NLL” the line of linking 11 coordinates which were to set the stage for US warships and planes to conduct a patrol mission and declared it in his own name, and he informed it only to the south Korean

navy as part of the internal rule of its military operation.

This was how the 150-mile “NLL” from the mouth of the Han River to Paengyong Island was unilaterally drawn.

The “NLL” does not hold any ground of international law and it is an illegal line which was unilaterally drawn by the US.

The “NLL” totally goes against the KAA’s Paragraph 13-b, Article II and even the US and the south Korean authorities admit the illegitimacy of this “NLL”.

Nevertheless they still insist that this “Line” has contributed to prevention of military conflicts between the north and the south and that the north has so far connived at it without raising any claims for decades.

On the contrary the DPRK has never recognized the illegitimate “NLL” which was covertly drawn in other’s sea without getting any approval from the very owner.

The DPRK declared 12 nautical miles as its territorial waters on March 5, 1955, one and half years after the US had drawn the illegitimate “NLL”. The DPRK also declared 200 nautical miles as its economic waters on July 1, 1977 and has never tolerated any attempts by south Korea to enter it.

The DPRK solemnly announced its establishment of the Military Demarcation Line in the West Sea of Korea through a Special Report of the General Staff of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) in September 1999.

The DPRK, strictly based on the KAA and the UN Convention on the Law of Sea, declared the demarcation line in the West Sea by extending the “Ka-Na” demarcation line between Hwanghae Province and Kyonggi

Province from the Point “Ka” stipulated in the KAA to the point of intersection of the sea boundary line to be confirmed between the DPRK and the PRC. The line would be connected by the points of equidistance between the DPRK’s Tungsan cape at the tip of Kangryong peninsula and the Kulyop Island under the jurisdiction of the US, the DPRK’s Ong Island and Sogyokryolbi Islands, Sohyop Islands under the jurisdiction of the US Armed Forces.

At the same time, the DPRK declared null and void the arbitrary “NLL” drawn by the US in the former’s territorial waters.

The cause of tension

Since the Korean War, the south has been desperate in sticking to the US-drawn “NLL” and the north has been resolute in opposing the south’s manoeuvres, thus turning the area around the “NLL” into a flammable hotspot inviting confrontation and conflict in the West Sea of Korea

Seriousness of military provocations in the area is well proven by the fact that the first meeting of the Military Armistice Commission (MAC) convened after the conclusion of the KAA listed as its top agenda the issue of military provocations in some areas including the military provocations in the West Sea of Korea.

Escalation of military provocations by the south Korean authorities has continued in the area for several decades. Entering 1990s it reached the uncontrollable level, thus bringing about armed conflict.

Having failed in making the first naval battle a tinderbox to ignite a full-scale war in June, 1999 in the West Sea, the south Korean military authorities provoked another armed conflict in this zone in 2002 to be

followed by another one in 2009.

Even after those conflicts, the cases of intrusion into the DPRK’s territorial waters by the south have greatly increased. In 2010 alone, the cases recorded over 600 times, all of which were conducted under the pretext of interdicting fishing vessels and countering normal moves of the KPA’s navy ships.

The most typical example was the artillery fire provocation from Yonpyong Island, which occurred in November, 2010.

At that time, Joint Military Staff of south Korea drew up a plan of artillery firing onto the DPRK’s territorial waters for two days in the sea near Yonpyong Island during the “Hoguk” military exercise.

The KPA sent a telephone message to south Korea in advance at 8 am on November 23 to prevent a military conflict in the sensitive area and ensure peace and stability on the Korean peninsula.

But the latter ignored the former’s warning and went on firing to the DPRK’s territorial waters using their artillery units stationed in the Yonpyong Island.

Unfortunately, the Yonpyong Island, being the miserable base of military provocation against the DPRK, could not escape from due punishment.

Even after that, due to the stubbornness of the US and the south Korean authorities in sticking to the “NLL”, a danger of conflict and full scale war have never been removed.

All the facts show that the “NLL” drawn by the US arbitrarily in the sacred waters of the DPRK is nothing but the root cause of conflict and

tension and as long as it remains peace and stability can never be ensured on the Korean peninsula.

Ways to ensure peace

The most pressing issue in improving the inter-Korean relations is to take substantial measures to ease the military tension and danger of conflict, particularly along the Military Demarcation Line and on the hotspots in the West Sea as Chairman Kim Jong Un made clear at the 7th Congress of the WPK.

As the inter-Korean military confidence matures, such scope should be expanded.

Today’s reality shows that military conflict is unavoidable between the north and the south as long as the “NLL” exists.

Of course, the best way lies in elimination of the illegal “NLL” and establishment of a fair and reasonable military demarcation line in the West Sea of Korea without delay.

The reason is that the “NLL” is a ghost line in regard to the context of the UN Convention on the Law of Sea, the principle of respecting the other’s 12 nautical miles of waters, the KAA and south Korea’s Law of the Sea as well as the fact that it was unilaterally drawn.

Once the US delegate distributed the Korean maps to the participants in a UN meeting on the Law of Sea that took place in the US. Even those maps marked a north-south “imaginary border line” far below south from the “NLL” on the principle of equidistance.

A US expert on the Korean affairs held that it was quite simple to solve the West Sea conflict, asserting that the US could reset the “NLL” a little


However, the US, out of its strategic interests, is continuing to support the “NLL”. The US has strategic interests in maintaining military tension on the Korean peninsula and thus the “NLL” is indispensible for them to keep the physical factors of inter-Korean military conflicts.

The US needs an excuse for its military station in south Korea and that is periodical aggravation of tension, not durable peace and security.

The reason why the US is against a peace treaty is that it needs a thorn in Koreans’ flesh such as the “NLL”.

Such being the case, it is difficult to immediately define a new military demarcation line in the West Sea.

With full considerations, the DPRK has been magnanimous enough to propose an establishment of peaceful waters until a new military demarcation line is defined in the West Sea of Korea. This would make the West Sea an area of national prosperity but not an area of confrontation between the countrymen.

The October 4 Declaration, adopted at the 2007 north-south Summit Meeting carries the common will of the nation.

The declaration reflects the inter-Korean agreement to establish a special zone for peace and cooperation in the West Sea as a way to activate and sustainably expand the economic cooperation based on the principle of promoting common interest and prosperity and filling each other’s wants.

Had the special zone, a joint fishing area and a peace area been established in the West Sea as agreed upon by the north and the south in

the Declaration, the hotspots thickly covered with smokes of guns would have been replaced with a rainbow of peace.

As stated by Chairman Kim Jong Un at the 7th Congress of the WPK, the inter-Korean relations would not have undergone twists and turns and a great stride would have been registered in the cause of national reunification if the north-south agreements had been implemented faithfully.

All the facts prove that only when the both sides of the north and the south respect and implement the agreements common to the nation in a consistent manner, could they ensure peace and security on the Korean peninsula, improve the inter-Korean relations and open up an avenue of national reunification.