The Northern Limit Line* (“NLL”) refers to the maritime demarcation line on the Yellow Sea between North and South Korea. As a unilateral act, the United Nations Command (“UNC”) set this line right after the end of the Korean War which took place from 1950 to 1953.
It was the critical cause of heated debates on setting the military demarcation line on the sea area in the course of armistice negotiation. Although the two sides could not come to a decision on the maritime ceasefire line, the parties agreed in Article 2, Section 15 of the Korean Armistice Agreement which states that: “[a] opposing naval forces shall respect the waters contiguous to the De-militarized Zone and to the land area of Korea under the military control of the opposing side.”
Map 1: The Northern Limit Line2
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Among the general parts of the Armistice Agreement,
In October 1973, North Korea began to trespass NLL. North Korea crossed NLL more than 43 times between October and November of that year. Due to this violation of thePage 483agreement on the demarcation line, the validity of NLL naturally became an issue of dispute. The most critical point at issue was the dispute over the jurisdiction of the sea area along NLL, which covers the five western coastal islands.
At the 346th Military Armistice Commission Meeting held on December 1, 1973 convened for the purposes of discussing the so-called “Western Sea Incidents,”North Korea asserted that NLL should not be the sea demarcation on the Yellow Sea area between the two parties of the Korean Armistice Agreement. North Korea based its argument on the fact that NLL was a line that was “unilaterally”designated by the UN Commander in Chief. As a gesture of completely disregarding the already crystallized status quo boundary line, North Korea proposed a hypothetical extension line stretching extended parallel to the latitude from the end of the provincial boundary line between Whanghaedo province and Kyonggido province.
Map 2: The North Korea’s Hypothetical Extension Line proposed in 19738
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Such a far-fetched assertion from North Korea, demanding prior authorization to enter the vicinity of the five western islands brought about serious debates. What brought North Korea to dispute the validity of NLL after the 20-year’ s silence after thePage 484ceasefire? First, after 20 years, North Korea had substantial naval forces against South Korea. Second, the U.N. Conference on the Law of the Sea might bring North Korea to raise a quasi-legal question on this maritime border. At that time, however, South Korea did not acquiesce North Korea’s appeal on this issue.
About 20 years later, this question arose again in the course of discussing the protocol provisions for Article 11 of the 1992 South-North Basic Agreement.
Map 3: A New Demarcation Line proposed by North...