September 05, 2019 10:19
North Korea has installed a Japanese-made radar with a range of 30-60 km on Hambak Island, a nominally South Korean-governed island near the Northern Limit Line in the West Sea. That brings Incheon International Airport and Ganghwa Island within spying range.
A government official here said Wednesday, "Though we need to check it more precisely, we presume that the purpose of the radar is to identify ships in the area when North Korea wants to fire guns from a coastal artillery battery."
The North began building military facilities on the island in May 2017, Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo told the National Assembly's Defense Committee. "We understand that there is a platoon of North Korean soldiers stationed on the island."
The military has claimed that the installations do not violate the inter-Korean military pact signed in September 2018, but the radar poses a threat to the South Korean military and sits within a peace zone designated in the pact.
Opposition lawmakers said that means it violates the pact. "The inter-Korean military pact clarifies that the two Koreas must maintain the same level of preparedness as before," Liberty Korea Party lawmaker Baek Seung-joo said. "The North's construction of facilities on Hambak Island is a violation of the pact." But Jeong said it is "hard to pinpoint" any specific clause it might violate.
The North started fortifying uninhabited islands near the NLL in 2015, starting with Kal Island 4.5 km from South Korea's Yeonpyeong Island. At the time, the North stationed four multiple rocket launchers and about 100 troops on Kal Island. It fortified another tiny island nearby the next year.
The observation post and radar on Hambak Island close to South Korea's Ganghwa Island followed, forming a maritime defense line between from Yeonpyeong Island and the Han River estuary.
Hambak is uninhabited and shown on publicly available maps as lying on the South Korean side of the NLL and administered by Ganghwa Island, which runs perilously close to the North Korean coast in the West Sea. But the government here on Tuesday said that Hambak Island is "incorrectly" listed in South Korean registers.
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