Ministers to visit border islands for discussions on maritime peace zone

Four South Korean ministers will travel to two western border islands on Saturday to solicit residents’ opinions over a recent cross-border summit agreement to establish a maritime peace zone, Seoul officials said.

Song Young-moo, Kang Kyung-wha, Cho Myoung-gyon and Kim Young-choon, the ministers of defense, foreign affairs, unification and oceans, respectively, will visit Yeonpyeong and Baengnyeong islands near the Northern Limit Line (NLL), a de facto inter-Korean sea border.

Their trip is seen as Seoul’s first step to enforce the summit agreement to devise a practical scheme to turn the areas around the NLL into a maritime peace zone to prevent accidental naval clashes and guarantee safe fishing activities.

“It is a trip for communication with the islanders over how to address the tensions (surrounding the islands) and how to ensure that the fishermen from the two Koreas can carry out fishing activities peacefully,” a defense ministry official said, declining to be named.

Tensions have continued around the NLL, as Pyongyang disputes the sea line on the grounds that it was drawn unilaterally by the then U.S.-led U.N. Command after the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. The communist state has argued the NLL should be redrawn further south.

The waters around the NLL have been the peninsula’s major flash point. There were armed naval clashes in 1999, 2002 and 2009. In 2010, Pyongyang carried out two deadly attacks near the NLL that killed a total of 50 South Koreans, including two civilians. (Yonhap)

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