Korean Peninsula: Standoff Continues / News / News agency Inforos
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Korean Peninsula: Standoff Continues

One of the main reasons for the differences is the determination of the maritime boundary

28.03.2011 09:44 T.Lazareva

Korean Peninsula: Standoff Continues
Relations between the Korean Democratic People’s Republic (KDPR) and the Republic of Korea (ROK) are difficult throughout the history of their existence since the Korean War. One of the main reasons for the differences between North and South Korea is the determination of the maritime boundary.

On August 30, 1953 the ROK unilaterally imposed the Northern Boundary Line (NBL) in the Yellow Sea. According to it, all the islands under a common name of Enphendo had to be administered by the commander of the UN forces in South Korea.

North Korea does not recognize the validity of the passage of NBL. Pyongyang’s demands for revision of the passage of NBL are conditioned to a considerable degree by economic interests, because the disputed area is rich in marine resources. In 1976, the DPRK established its own ‘South Boundary Line’. As a result, in this water zone an area emerged that each side assigns to its territory.

Because of the unresolved problems in the water zones of the island Enphendo and other nearby islands, there were armed clashes many times which led to casualties on both sides. Especially worthy of mention are two last year’s incidents that led to sharp worsening of relations between the countries. The first occurred on March 26, 2010, when not far from the NBL, near Baengnyeong Island in the Yellow Sea during combat duty in consequence of an explosion the Cheonan, a South Korean Navy ship sank. 46 people were killed. The second - in November, while the DPRK fired at the Enphendo Island near the western sea border between the two Koreas, which resulted in killing people.

According to Western experts, the last case of shelling was the North’s reaction to the annual Hoguk military drill - the largest military exercise in South Korea. Despite protests from North Korea, these exercises were held. In this case Pyongyang believes that the ROK opened fire before the North Korean army was forced to counterattack. Seoul and Washington, accordingly, are accusing North Korea of everything. Differences between the parties led to heighten the atmosphere between them.

For the recovery of relations between North and South Korea, which found themselves in an intricate situation, Pyongyang came forward with an initiative to begin a dialogue "to discuss ways to defuse tensions on the Korean Peninsula" both with the government and with political parties and organizations of South Korea. Since the beginning of this year, the DPRK sent the ROK a series of proposals for negotiations, including meetings at the level of members of parliaments of two countries. In January 2011, the Defense Minister of the DPRK sent a letter to his South Korean counterpart with a proposal to conduct consultations between highlight military officials of both countries. In addition, a proposal was made to resume tourist trips of South Koreans to the resort area Geumgangsan and the border town of Kaesong, as well as exchange programs to contribute to "an atmosphere of reconciliation between North and South."

However, the ROK has only accepted a proposal of military talks. It has also given its consent to discuss after the talks their details between Red Cross Societies of both countries. In the meantime, the South Korean leadership links the improvement of relations to Pyongyang’s refusal of nuclear weapon development. Only then the ROK will examine North Korea’s proposal. Also, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak proposed the North to strengthen economic relations, but only if the latter agrees to alter political line.

In February 2011, a meeting was held in Panmunjom between military representatives of the ROK and the DPRK on the preparation of high-level military talks, but the sides could never agree on time and the venue for the dialogue. Seoul insists that it will discuss all issues raised by the North Korean side only if Pyongyang takes responsibility for the incidents with the Cheonan Navy ship and around the island Enphendo. However, the North Korean side regards these claims as ‘provocation’ arranged by the Republic of Korea under the influence of U.S.

Pyongyang standing for the improvement of relations with South Korea, calling for peace and stability in the region, believes that "one should not focus his attention on these incidents", because otherwise, "it would be impossible to achieve progress in inter-Korean relations." In this case the North offers to abandon the showdown in this ‘ugly story’ and hold talks without preconditions.

However, the leadership of the ROK continues to escalate the situation. Recently South Korea has begun increasingly resort to various methods of psychological pressure on the North. For example, balloons are regularly launched toward the DPRK with propaganda leaflets and radio receivers. Also along the demilitarized zone the Southerners have established powerful loudspeaker stations, through which it is planned to make broadcasting for the North Korean troops.

On the initiative of the ROK a united front was created, including the U.S., Japan, Great Britain and other countries supporting Seoul and denouncing Pyongyang. In addition, in early January there was a meeting between the defense ministers of the ROK and Japan to discuss the possibility of signing the Sino-South Korean military cooperation agreement. A major US-South Korean Resolve-Foal Eagle military exercise held in March 2011 does not contribute either to the normalization of inter-Korean relations. As a result the Korean Peninsula once again found itself in the atmosphere of tension.

The frequent large-scale military exercises of the United States, the ROK and Japan conducted in the region are a menacing factor not only for North Korea. Washington hopes thereby to strengthen its leadership in the region which poses a threat to security in this part of the world.

Thus, the policy pursued by South Korea under the auspices of the United States, is the main cause of the deterioration of inter-Korean relations. Despite the fact that the government of the ROK declares the ‘dialogue’, in reality it is just heating up the situation in the region. In the circumstances concerned, both sides should not threaten each other with military force, but should cease all provocative actions increasing the possibility of conflicts, and conduct constructive negotiations.
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