Korea: North is right, but…

After a glance at the map of Saturday’s Korea-Korea naval battlea, an unbiased man would say that such incidents are inevitable as long as one of the parties treats the boundary problem this way.

The boundary line drawn up 50 years ago by UN representatives (under which, the USA acted) at the peace treaty at the end of the Korean War. The line stretches for dozens of miles from South Korean to North Korean shores. At the same time, it was not called a border line; it was a buffer zone, although South Korea treats it as its territorial waters. This is explained by “the right of the strongest," demonstrated by South Korea three years ago.

On June 15, 1999, at the height of crab catching season, North Korean fishing schooners accompanied with small war vessels entered the buffer zone. The South Koreans were already waiting for them. A skirmish started, and the boats of both sides were damaged; one North Korean boat sank. North Korea losses were 30 people killed and 70 wounded; only seven South Koreans were reported as wounded in the skirmish. The South's victory can be easily explained: North Korea is a continental state, while South Korea, being a sea state, is better equipped thanks to the Pentagon.

This year, the same situation has repeated once again: North Korean schooners penetrated into a Seoul-privatized buffer zone. This time a direct hit took a South Korean vessel to the bottom. Four seamen, including the captain, died, one is missing, and twenty are wounded.

This demonstrates that the battle training of North Korean sailors has improved since 1999: US hawks have cheered up, as the South Korean opponents to the dialogue with North Korea have started energetic activities. Important talks scheduled between North Korea and representatives of the US State Department for the middle of July are on the verge of breakdown.

Headlines of the global and South Korean media talk about Pyongyang’s treacherous intentions, even the most ridiculous reasons are mentioned: for example, it is said that it was designed to spoil Seoul’s football holiday. However, in fact, North Korea televised the games of the South Koreans, and the North Korean football union sent congratulations to Seoul. Therefore, it is not easy to understand the conflict.

North Korea is a mountainous country; its harvest never was enough for the population. Thus, fishing is a vital sphere. This is probably the main reason of Saturday’s incident.

Andrey Krushinsky PRAVDA.Ru Beijing

Translated by Maria Gousseva

Read the original in Russian: http://www.pravda.ru/main/2002/07/01/43520.html