N. Korea's Hambak Island has observation facilities, no weapons: defense ministry
By Oh Seok-min
SEOUL/GANGHWA, Sept. 24 (Joint Press Corps-Yonhap) -- Facilities North Korea has set up on its border island of Hambak in the Yellow Sea are apparently for observation, with no signs of major weapons being deployed, Seoul's defense ministry said Tuesday.
The comments were made during a media tour to South Korea's western island of Mal in Ganghwa County, Incheon, which is just 9 kilometers away from Hambak near the Northern Limit Line (NLL), the de facto inter-Korean maritime border.
The tour was organized by the ministry to alleviate suspicions and security concerns surrounding the North Korean island following reports that the communist country may have shipped weapons like multiple rocket launchers there.
"Atop a hill on the island, North Korea set up a two-story building as well as a steel tower for surveillance purposes sometime in 2017. Other buildings on the island seem to be barracks for some 30 soldiers," a ministry official said.
Noting that the radar attached to the tower was not for military usage but a two-dimensional one mainly to keep tabs on merchant or fishing boats, the official said that North Korea would not have put the radar in such an exposed place if it was used for a tactical or military purpose.
"The surface of the island is so bumpy that there is not enough space for artillery," another official said, adding that there have been no signs of weapons so far.
North Korea has turned several unmanned islands near the NLL into bases for surveillance since 2015 amid heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
"We have been closely monitoring related movements on the island round the clock. We continue to maintain a staunch readiness posture in order to respond sternly in contingencies," a Marine Corps officer in charge of the region said.
During the tour, the defense ministry also clarified that the island is North Korean territory.
Controversy erupted recently over the ownership of the small border island after some government data and maps in South Korea erroneously marked it as its territory.
"According to maps drawn back in the early 1900s and around 1953 when the armistice agreement was signed, the island belongs to (North Korea's) Hwanghae Province," a ministry official said.
The defense ministry has said that the island is located north of the NLL as jurisdiction was fixed during the armistice agreement, noting that some data and maps were mistaken and will be corrected.
The UNC, which enforces the armistice agreement, concurred on the ownership, saying the island belongs to the North, according to the ministry.
Actor Yoo Ah-in appears for questioning over alleged drug use
(LEAD) N. Korean leader urges more production of weapons-grade nuclear materials; photos of tactical nuclear warheads released
Grandson of ex-President Chun apprehended at Incheon Int'l Airport over drug use
(LEAD) Actor Yoo Ah-in questioned over alleged drug use
USS Nimitz carrier to arrive in S. Korea in apparent warning to N. Korea
Yoon puts S. Korea-Japan relations back on track
Japan's removal of export curbs on S. Korea to boost supply chain stability, ease biz uncertainties
Yoon's summit with Biden to highlight S. Korea's 'pivotal' role in region: U.S. experts
(News Focus) Solution to forced labor issue shows Yoon's commitment to improving ties with Japan
Seoul's controversial plan for forced labor compensation reflects urgency of security partnership with Tokyo: experts