Korea will build naval bases on Baeknyeong and Heuksan islands in the West Sea to respond more quickly to illegal incursions of Chinese fishing fleets. Maritime police will man the bases around the clock.
An official at the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs said on Tuesday, "We decided to build the forward bases so that our maritime police can respond faster to illegal fishing by Chinese fishermen."
Baeknyeong is 180 km off the coast of Incheon and Heuksan 90 km off Mokpo on the southwestern tip of the Korean Peninsula. The two port cities have harbor facilities for maritime police. "At present it takes as much as eight hours for maritime police to get from the mainland to areas in the West Sea where there are reports of illegal Chinese fishing, and we end up missing a lot of them," the ministry official said. "Forward bases on those two islands would shorten the response time by half."
The bases will house fueling depots for ships but also maritime research equipment and accommodate marine scientists. A ship operated by the Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries will be based there. The government also intends to use the bases as emergency shelters for Korean trawlers that get caught in bad weather. It plans to pick the exact locations this year and begin construction in 2014. Completion is expected around 2018.