Moon Says Sorry for Controversial Naval Base in Jeju

中央日報
The International Fleet Review is held in waters off Jeju Island on Thursday. /Newsis

President Moon Jae-in on Thursday apologized for a controversial naval base in Jeju when he met locals on the southern resort island.

"Let me express my deep regret and offer words of consolation to you," Moon said, adding that building the naval base in front of the small fishing village of Gangjeong would have required greater procedural and democratic legitimacy.

"When I was on the campaign trail, I promised to find a solution to the issue. Of course I've not forgotten it," he said.

"The government has already dropped demands for damages" from locals and activists who were arrested for illegal protests against the building of the naval base. He also promised to consider an amnesty.

Opposition parties said the illegal protests cost the country tens of billions of won, and the project was carried out for the sake of national security by the Roh Moo-hyun administration, of which Moon considers himself the heir.

Earlier that day, Moon attended the International Fleet Review in waters off Seogwipo on the island. Thirty-nine warships and 24 aircraft from Korea and foreign countries, including the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, were taking part.

The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions and other activists staged a demonstration against the fleet review and clashed with police.

The Reagan decided to stay out of the naval base until Friday, apparently because its port call was delayed by activists paddling kayaks in nearby waters. But the Defense Ministry claimed that the Reagan had always meant to dock in the port on Friday.

Japan canceled plans to send a destroyer over protests against the imperial rising-sun flag that remains the standard of the Japanese Navy. China also pulled out at the last moment citing "internal reasons." 

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