Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Thursday, November 21, 2002

NLL - Controversial Sea Border Between S.Korea, DPRK

The Northern Limit Line (NLL) in the Yellow Sea between South Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) is becoming a hot point for conflicts between the two countries.


The Northern Limit Line (NLL) in the Yellow Sea between South Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) is becoming a hot point for conflicts between the two countries.

The recent violations of the controversial sea border between South Korea and the DPRK by both sides are cases in point.

On Oct. 12, the DPRK's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) news reports accused South Korean battleships of infiltrating into the territorial waters of the north side in the Yellow Sea on that day.

Then, the Joint Chief of Staffs (JCS) of South Korea said the DPRK's navy boats violated the NLL on Oct. 16 and Oct. 20 respectively.

The latest incident happened on Oct. 20, with a patrol boat of the DPRK crossing the NLL and returning to its side's waters afterreceiving warning shots from the South Korean navy, reported the South Korean national news agency Yonhap.

Before these unhappy episodes, the navies of the two counties clashed around the line in June of 1999 and late June of 2002, which caused casualties and property losses to both sides, including seamen lives and navy boats.

Problems with the maritime border existed even at the beginning.

While signing an inter-Korean armistice agreement on May 27, 1953, the United Nations Command (UNC) and the DPRK's army established a Military Demarcation Line (MDL) on land but did not extend it to maritime areas.

Then the temporal UNC Commander Mark Wayne Clarke scratched thecurrent NLL on Aug. 30, 1953 in order to prevent clashes at sea, and notified the "maritime border" to the DPRK later.

In a long period of time, the DPRK did not make any response tothe proposal, thus South Korea and the UNC deemed the DPRK accepted the concept.

However, the DPRK rejected the NLL in December 1973, drawing upa new sea border that included five islands, which were under South Korea's control at that time, including Yeonpyeong and Baekryeong islands, in the DPRK's territorial waters.

And the DPRK declared that South Korean vessels should obtain its approval before passing the waters around the islands.

Since then, the two countries criticized mutually for entering the other side's territorial waters.

The DPRK finally declared its own version of an "Inter-Korean MDL in the Yellow Sea," which included the five islands in DPRK's territory in October 1999.

In addition, the DPRK announced a six-point charter stipulatingthat vessels will be allowed to and from the islands only through designated sea routes. Should vessels stray from the designated passages, they will be regarded as a violation of the DPRK's territorial waters, the order stated.

South Korea and the UNC insisted at that time that the NLL was the de facto sea border and that it must be maintained until a newmaritime MDL could be established through the Joint Military Commission on the armistice agreement.

With the disputed border continuing to be the focus of South Korea-DPRK confrontations, which are disharmonious with improvement of the inter-Korean ties mainly in the economic field,experts say the two countries on the Korean Peninsula should sit at the negotiation table to redesign the line in order to avoid further conflicts.

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