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Parliamentary panel begins inspection on Jeju naval base
By Kim Eun-jung
SEOUL, Aug. 29 (Yonhap) -- A parliamentary committee on Monday began looking into a project to build a new naval base on the southern resort island of Jeju, as the project has been stalled due to a prolonged sit-in by residents and activists at the construction site.

   Ruling and opposition party lawmakers last week launched a sub-panel under the Special Committee for Budget and Accounts to review the project's planned budget after some 200 residents and activists opposed to the project clashed with police at the construction site in Gangjeong Village.

  


Protesters barricaded themselves in the site for seven hours to block police from arresting five protesters on charges of obstruction of official duty.

   The incident sharply escalated tensions in the southern parts of the island as police chief Cho Hyun-oh immediately replaced the local police chief for giving in to pressure from protesters and ordered riot police to sternly deal with "illegal protests."

   "The panel will look into whether the state budget was properly allocated to the project as approved by the National Assembly," said Rep. Kwon Kyung-seok of the Grand National Party, who chairs the subcommittee.

   Once completed in 2014, the new base will be home to about 20 naval vessels and two 150,000-ton cruisers. According to the defense ministry, about 14 percent of construction work has been completed, but the project has been stalled since June.

   Village residents and anti-base activists argue the base could set off a regional arms race and damage the scenic resort island's environment, while the defense ministry says a new base on the southernmost island will strengthen national security by increasing military mobility.

   ejkim@yna.co.kr
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