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JH Ahn was an NK News contributor based in Seoul. He previously worked as an interpreter for United States Forces Korea.
The Jeju Civilian-Military Complex Port was completed on Friday after almost 10 years of construction, and is expected to work as the choke point pressuring North Korea’s marine transportation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), the South Korean navy said.
“The naval forces stationed at the Jeju Civilian-Military Complex Port will be deployed to counter North Korean provocations,” the South Korean Navy wrote on Friday.
“Also, due to the port’s geographical advantages, it can play a major role in blocking North Korea’s marine transportation of WMD.”
The completion of the port comes amid the U.S.’s presentation of a new sanctions package emphasizing the mandatory inspection of “all cargo going in and out of the DPRK,” said U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power on Thursday.
A South Korean navy official said that the U.S. has not yet requested use of the port for the purpose of pressuring North Korean naval transportation, but added that the port will be opened to all allied forces should they request it.
“The port has been operational since December last year, and today’s ceremony for the completion will put the facility into actual use,” the navy’s public relations officer told NK News.
An observer said many North Korean cargo ships travel around the Jeju island.
“Ships controlled from Pyongyang but sailing under different flags travel very close to Jeju on a regular basis,” said Leo Byrne, NK News data and analytic director.
“Perhaps this new port and the ever-tightening sanctions environment will affect this practice, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see.”
Since last August the U.S. has shown keen interest in using the Jeju port for expanding navigation and training opportunities.
“The U.S. Navy 7th Fleet really likes to send ships to port visit here in South Korea,” said Rear Admiral Lisa Franchetti, the former commander of U.S. Naval Forces Korea, during an interview with Yonhap News Agency.
A military expert said the Jeju port, should it be used with U.S. forces, will not only increase the U.S.’s naval capability against North Korea, but also against China, which is already at odds with U.S. interests in the South China Sea.
“If the U.S. gets to use the Jeju port, the U.S. will be able to deploy their naval units into the conflicted region more quickly, which China will not welcome at all,” a civilian military adviser working between South Korea and international authorities told NK News.
The ongoing maritime conflict between Beijing and Washington reached its peak last week, when Beijing placed the missile launchers on the disputed islands in the South China Sea last Wednesday, the Guardian reported.
Featured image: ROK Navy