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The 50-Mile Military Boundary Zone of North Korea

  • Choon-ho Park (a1)
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1 The English text, by the Korean Central News Agency, Aug. 1, 1977, in 4 Foreign Broadcast Information Service (hereinafter FBIS), Asia and Pacific, Aug. 1, 1977, at D6; and The People's Korea, Aug. 10, 1977, at 2, Col. 1: Demanded by the situation prevailing in our country, the Supreme Command of the Korean People's Army establishes the military boundary to reliably safeguard the economic sea zone of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and firmly defend militarily the national interests and sovereignty of the country. The military boundary is up to 50 miles from the starting line of the territorial waters in the East Sea and to the boundary line of the economic sea zone in the West Sea.In the military boundary (on the sea, in the sea and in the sky) acts of foreigners, foreign military vessels and foreign military planes are prohibited and civilian ships and civilian planes (excluding fishing boats) are allowed to navigate or fly only with appropriate prior agreement or approval. In the military boundary (on the sea, in the sea and in the sky) civilian vessels and civilian planes shall not conduct acts for military purposes or acts infringing upon the economic interests.

2 According to a Japanese source as reported in South Korean newspapers, e.g., Hankook Ilbo, Sept. 19, 1977, at 3, Col. 1, North Korea appears to have relied on a Soviet practice in drawing one of its baselines. In 1957, die Soviet Union declared the Peter the Great Bay to be its internal waters, enclosing it with a 108-mile straight baseline (see, e.g., Butler, the Soviet Union and the law of the Sea 108 (1971). In the Sea of Japan, a straight baseline which North Korea is reported to have drawn enclosing two small bays is roughly 100 miles long; the waters so enclosed, however,given in the 1958 Geneva Convention on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone,Art. 7(2–6), or in the Informal Composite Negotiating Text of the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea, 6th Sess., Art. 10(2–5), UN Doc.A/CONF.62/WP.10 at 23 (1977).

3 For instance, China adopted a 12-mile limit for its territorial waters in 1959, but has still not made its straight baselines public. Japan extended its territorial waters from 3 to 12 miles in 1977, also without specifying the straight baselines. North Korea has not formally published the limit of its territorial waters; since the Pueblo incident of 1968, its limit has been assumed to be 12 miles. South Korea's 12-mile territorial sea law came into force on April 30, 1978. For the text of the law, see Guanbo (the official gazette), the Republic of Korea Government, Dec. 31, 1977, at 3–4. and Apr. 29, 1978, at 3.

4 See note 1 supra.

5 See Nihon Keizai Shinbun, Sept. 4, 1977, morning ed., at 2, Col. 1.

6 See, e.g., FBIS, HI, Soviet Union, Aug. 5, 1977, at M3.

7 See, e.g., Dong-A Ilbo, July 6, 1977, at 2, Col. 1; and Chung-Ang Ilbo, Aug. 3, 1977, at 3, Col. 1.

8 See, e.g., Hankook Ilbo, Aug. 3, 1977, at 1, Col. 2 and 2, Col. 1; Nihon Keizai Shinbun, Aug. 1, 1977, evening ed. at 1, Col. 1 and Aug. 7, 1977, morning ed. at 7, Col. 9. Ironically, Western language newspapers did not confuse the name, having relied on the English language reports by North Korea. See, e.g., The N. Y. Times, Aug. 2, 1977, at 2, Col. 1; and The Wash. Post, Aug. 3, 1977, at A15, Col. 1:1. In substance, a military boundary zone and a military warning zone (like China's) do not seem to have a significant distinction.

9 At the 346th meeting of the Military Armistice Commission on December 1, 1973, North Korea insisted that the waters contiguous to the five South Korean islands situated offshore North Korea were North Korean territorial waters and that ships in transit should obtain prior permit from North Korea. See Hankook Ilbo, Aug. 3, 1977, at 3, Col. 1. For a recent study commissioned by the South Korean National Unification Board, see Jae-Shik Bae, Hyunhaeng Hwijonhyupjongcheje Eso-Bon Sohae 5-Dosowi Munje Jom Balsaeng Won-In Mit Daechaek (Problems of the five Western Offshore Islands in the Context of the Armistice Agreement: the Causes and Counter- Measures) (Seoul, 1978).

10 Agreement between the Commander-in-Chief, UN Command, and the Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army and the Commander of the Chinese People's Volunteers concerning a Military Armistice in Korea, signed at Panmunjom, Korea, July 27, 1953, Art. II (13)(b), (15) and (16), UN Doc. S/3079. 11 The Armistice Agreement was annexed with 22 maps. Map 3 indicated the location of the five islands, noting that: “(2) The rectangles which inclose the island groups are for the sole purpose of indicating island groups which shall remain under the military control of the Commander-in-Chief, United Nations Command. These rectangles have no other significance and none shall be attached thereto.” Between the South Korean islands and the North Korean mainland, the United Nations Command has maintained the so-called northern patrol limit line as a unilateral self-regulatory measure.

12 See, e.g., The Wash. Post, Aug. 3, 1977, at A15, Col. 1.

13 See, e.g., Nihon Keizai Shinbun, Sept. 3, 1977, evening ed., at 1, Col. 1.

14 See FBIS, IV, Asia and Pacific, Sept. 7, 1977, at Dl; and Nihon Keizai Shinbun, Sept. 7, 1977, morning ed., at 2, Col. 1.

15 See note 8 supra.

16 See 2 Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea, 2nd Sess., Off. Recs., 215 (1974). North Korean Delegate Kim said: “[T]he boundary of the economic zone … between adjacent or opposite States should be determined by consultation in accordance with the principle of an equidistant line or a median line.“

17 For the resolution adopted by the USSR Council of Ministers on Feb. 24, 1977, entitled “On the Institution of Temporary Measures to Preserve Living Resources and Regulate Fishing in Regions of the Pacific and Arctic Oceans Adjacent to the USSR's Coast,” see The Current Digest of the Soviet Press, March 23, 1977, at 19.

18 For details with maps, see, e.g., Traavik, and Ostreng, , Security and Ocean Law: Norway and the Soviet Union, 4 Ocean Dev. and Int'l. L. J. 343 (1977).

19 For an illustrated analysis of China's Military Warning Zone and its other security zones, see, e.g., Park, , Fishing Under Troubled Waters: The Fisheries Controversy in Northeast Asia, 2 Ocean Dev. and Int'l. L. J. 93 (1974).

20 For further details, see, e.g., Park, , The Sino-Japanese-Korean Sea Resources Controversy and the Hypothesis of a 200-Mile Economic Zone, 16 Harv. Int'l. L. J. 27 (1975). China's silence on the North Korean claim appears to be rather unnatural. Its inconsistency and overreaction with respect to sea problems in general also may be seen, inter alia, in the following instances: (1) When the United States designated a “Combat Zone” roughly 100 miles off the coast of Vietnam in 1965, which was intended for an income tax relief measure for U.S. military personnel serving in Vietnam, China strongly denounced it as an infringement on the freedom of navigation on the high seas. For the text of Executive Order No. 11216, see 30 Federal Register 5817; for the White House Press Release of April 24, 1965, see 52 Dept. State Bull. 749 (1965); and for the Chinese protest and the comments on it, see, e.g., Cohen and Chiu, People's China and International Law, 546–7, 1499–1500 (1974); (2) When Japan and South Korea signed an East China Sea continental shelf joint development pact in 1974 to exploit mineral resources from an area which, in their view, lies beyond Chinese jurisdiction, China strongly protested, denouncing the action as an encroachment on its sovereign rights, and has since made it a major political issue against Japan. In 1975, however, China itself signed the Yellow and the East China Seas fisheries agreement with Japan, which is not a coastal state of the Yellow Sea, thereby flatly ignoring the interests of North and South Korea as the coastal state. For the Chinese protest against the Japan-South Korea shelf pact, see Peking Rev., February 8, 1974, at 3; and for the English text with a map of the Sino-Japanese fisheries agreement, see Limits In the Seas, No. 70, Office of the Geographer, Dept. of State (Sept. 1977); (3) When Japan and the Soviet Union were negotiating in the spring of 1977 over Japanese fishing within the Soviet 200-mile zone, it was proposed by the Soviet Union that its fishermen be allowed to operate within 3 to 12 miles of Japanese territorial waters in return. China bitterly criticized the Soviet Union for a “hegemonic” attempt at what had never been precedented between any two truly sovereign states in history. However, the postwar practices between some countries do not support the Chinese criticism. For instance, Finnish fishermen have been permitted to operate within certain parts of Soviet territorial waters in the Gulf of Finland, and Italian fishermen within certain parts of the Yugoslavian territorial waters in the Adriatic Sea. For the Chinese criticism, see Peking Rev., April 22, 1977, at 46; and for the text of the Finnish-Soviet arrangements see 338 UNTS 3, 739 UNTS 77 or 9 ILM 507 (1970) and for the Italo-Yugoslavia arrangements see 171 UNTS 279 and 379 UNTS 23.

21 Limits in the Seas, No. 36 (Dec. 1975, rev. Apr. 1, 1977).

22 Argentina, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Chile, Cuba, Cyprus, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany(E), Germany(W), Greece, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Italy, Lebanon, Nigeria, Poland, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tanzania, United States, Venezuela, Yemen(Aden), and Yugoslavia. 23 See note 21 supra.

23 See note 21 supra, at 190.

24 See note 21 supra, at 41.

25 Art. 9 (1) , Law No. 37 (Sept. 10, 1972), Bollettino Ufficiale, July 21, 1973, at 246.

26 See the addendum of Apr. 1, 1977, to op. cit. note 21 supra.

27 See note 21 supra, at 172.

28 See 7 Hackworth, Digest of International Law 703 (1943).

29 Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, signed at Rio de Janeiro Sept. 2, 1947, TIAS 1838, 21 UNTS 77, and 5 For. Rel. U.S.: American Republics 35 (1948). For a comment on the Rio Treaty, see, e.g., Kunz, , The Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, 42 AJIL 111 (1948). For the maps and the San Jose amendment of July 26, 1975, whereby Greenland has been excluded from the zone and its northern limit ends at 86° 30’ North and 60° West, see Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, Applications, Vols. I—II (1973) and Vol. III (1973–76), General Secretariat, OAS, Wash. D.C. (1977). For a comment in connection with the origin of the 200-mile zone, see Hollick, , The Origins of 200-Mile Offshore Zones, 71 AJIL 494 (1977).

30 See Clark, From The Danube to the Yalu 154 (1954).

31 The Zone was abolished on August 27, 1953, upon coming into force of the Armistice Agreement on July 27, 1953. For a map of the Zone, see, e.g., Kukje Joyakjip (Collection of International Treaties) 446 (Lee et al. eds. 1958).

32 See U.S. Naval War College, International Law Situations 122 (1912).

33 See U.S. Naval War College, International Law Situations 117 (1914); International Law Documents 83, 89 (1941); (1943) at 64; and 39 Stat. 1194.

34 See, e.g., Butler, note 2 supra, at 116.

35 See, [1956] International Law Commission Report, 11 GAOR, Supp. 9, at 39–40 UN Doc. A/3159 (1956).

37 For a North Korean explanation, see the commentator's article in the Rodong Shinmun (Labor News), Aug. 8, 1977; the English version No One Can Meddle in DPRK's Step of Establishing Military Sea Boundary, People's Korea, Aug. 17, 1977, at 1, Col. 1.

37 For details with a map, see Asahi Shinbun, Oct. 29, 1975, morning ed., at 1, Col. 1. The two South Korean zones were established in the name of the Regulations for the Safety of Shipping Operations and revised twice, in 1973 and 1974. The zone in the Sea of Japan extends over 150 miles and in the Yellow Sea over 100 miles. In October 1975, the South Korean government informally requested the Japanese government to prohibit Japanese fishermen from operating in the two South Korean zones, a request with which the Japanese government refused to comply on the grounds that Japanese fishing off South Korean coast would be regulated solely by the fisheries agreement concluded between the two countries in 1965. For further details, see also Susan-Op Donghyang-E Kwanhan Yoncha Bogoso (Annual Report on the Trends of Fishing Industry), Office of Fisheries, Seoul, 1976, at 224. It should also be recalled that at the First United Nations Law of the Sea Conference held at Geneva in 1958 (North Korea was not represented) South Korea was one of the six states that supported the concept of security zones. Its Delegate Kim “hoped that the omission [by the International Law Commission of special security rights in the contiguous zone] would would necessary to safeguard its national safety.” See Fmst United Nations Conferenceon the Law of the Sea, off. Recs., UN Doc. A/CONF. 13/39, at 44 (1958). Theother five states were Byelorussia, Czechoslovakia, the Philippines, Poland and Yemen.For a Comment on security zones in general, see Fell, , Maritime Contiguous Zones 62 Michigan L. Rev. 848 (1964).

38 Since 1953 when the Armistice Agreement was signed between the United Nations on the one hand and North Korea and the People's Republic of China on the other, the political circumstances relating to the Korean situation have substantially changed. China, which the United Nations branded as an “aggressor” for sending its troops to aid North Korea, has now replaced the Republic of China (Taiwan) in the Security Council of the United Nations as one of its Permanent Members, and North Korea has also become a member of many Specialized Agencies of the United Nations. In recent years, attempts have been made at the General Assembly to abolish the United Nations Command in Korea. For an analysis of the legal status of the United Nations Command in Korea in relation to the United Nations itself, see Baxter, , Constitutional Forms and Some Legal Problems of International Military Command, 29 Brit. Y.B. Int. L. 325, 332 (1952).

* Culture Learning Institute, The East-West Center, Hawaii. At the time of writing, the author was Research Associate, East Asian Legal Studies Program, Harvard Law School. He is deeply indebted to Professor Jerome A. Cohen, Director of the Program, for his comments and suggestions, and to Mr. Paul Theil of Harvard Law School and Professor Henry Reiff (ret.) for reading the manuscript. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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