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Seoul Moves to Block Passage of NK Ships

Kim Yon-se / The Korea Times | October 11 2006

South Korea is preparing a contingency plan to ban North Korean ships from plying the South’s territorial waters if they are contaminated by radiation from a nuclear test it conducted on Monday the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries said yesterday. It added that it was consulting with the Ministry of Unification on the plan.

It is speculated that this preparatory step is being taken ahead of a planned U.N. sanctions or a U.S.-led Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) operation aimed at interdicting Pyongyang’s suspected transport of banned materials through sea lanes.

Since August 2005 when the two Koreas signed marine agreements, 77 North Korean ships have passed through the South’s territorial waters for 124 times.

Most of the North’s ships loaded with oil or cement are moving from the Northeast coast to the Northwest coast via waters surrounding Cheju Island, according to the Korea Coast Guard.

`` North Korean ships are still passing through our waters,’’ a coast guard official said.

Should the Ministry of Unification approves the plan, North Korean ships will be denied access to the routes they currently use.

The Maritime and Fisheries Ministry also said it looking at a possible suspension of inter-Korean fisheries trading. It has decided to launch task force to set up measures in the fisheries sector.

The South imported fisheries products totaling 50,000 tons worth $82 million last year.

But a ministry official said he believes that it would be difficult for the two Koreas to stop fisheries trading immediately, pointing out that it is being conducted in the private sector.

The issue is the level of sanctions on the North from any UN resolution _ experts say a banning of fisheries imports could be possible.

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