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Third suspected N.K. drone found

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Published : 2014-04-06 20:49
Updated : 2014-04-06 20:51

The South Korean military on Sunday discovered another small drone, presumably from North Korea, on a mountain in Samcheok, Gangwon Province, some 130 kilometers from the inter-Korean border.

The sky-blue, triangle-shaped drone is the same as the one found in Paju last month. A wild-ginseng digger first found the drone on Oct. 4 last year and reported it to the military authorities last Friday, the Defense Ministry said.
 
A drone, presumably from North Korea, sits in Mount Cheongoksan in Samscheok, Gangwon Province, Sunday. (Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin plans to convene a meeting of top military commanders on Monday to analyze the new security threat and deliver his “detailed guidelines” to bolster military readiness, the ministry said.

“Recognizing the drone as a new military threat, we will thoroughly analyze it, formulate solutions to complement our air defense measures and increase military assets to counter the threat,” Major Gen. Kwon Oh-han, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s operations division, told reporters.

“Should it be ultimately confirmed that the drones were sent from North Korea, we will take strong measures including legal action for having encroached upon South Korea’s airspace.”

Before discovering the latest drone, the military authorities found two more, one in Paju close to the Demilitarized Zone and the other on the border island of Baengnyeongdo, on March 24 and March 31, respectively. Seoul has tentatively concluded that the two were from the North.

To get the drone for analysis, 19 people, including the 53-year-old ginseng digger identified only by his surname Lee, military personnel and government investigators, climbed Mount Cheongoksan in Samcheok.

Lee stated that when he first found the drone last October, it carried a Canon camera, and that he threw away the broken, wet camera, but used the memory card after deleting the content.

Pending investigation into the three drones, the South Korean military plans to analyze their infiltration routes and how those drones could impact its military operations in the future.

This week, the military also plans to search the frontline areas, believing that more drones might have crashed near the inter-Korean border. Seoul also seeks to bolster its monitoring and counterstrike assets, and forge a cooperative network with civilian drone operators to enhance air defense.

The discovery of another drone further escalated security concerns that the communist state could use drones for terrorist activities.

A government source said that North Korea has already deployed the so-called “suicide drones” to frontline units for their potential combat missions, and that they were capable of striking any military target in the South.

Seoul officials presume that the drones’ operational range is 600-800 km. They have analyzed military capabilities of the drones since Pyongyang unveiled its weaponized drones through the state media last March.

The drone measures 5.8 meters long and 5.6 meters wide, and flies at a top speed of 400 km per hour, according to Seoul officials. The drone equipped with a high-tech navigation system is said to operate in a way similar to cruise missiles.

The North is thought to be manufacturing combat drones based on U.S.-made MQM-107D Streakers, a target drone used by the U.S. military to test surface-to-air missiles. The North reportedly imported MQM-107D Streakers from 2010-2011 from a Middle Eastern nation, possibly Syria.

Meanwhile, Pyongyang on Saturday criticized Seoul’s announcement of its successful test of a new ballistic missile.

“The South is in no position to criticize our exercise of self-defense such as our legitimate test of rockets,” the spokesperson of the North’s strategic missile force said in an interview carried by the North’s Korean Central News Agency.

The criticism came as Japan’s Mainichi Shimbun reported that the North unofficially notified Japan of its plan to conduct a maritime artillery exercise and a missile test in East Sea until April 17.

“The U.S. should not take issue with our measures to strengthen self-defense deterrence anymore,” the strategic missile force said.

Last Friday, Seoul announced that it succeeded in test-firing a new ballistic missile with a range of 500 km, enough to strike any military target in the North. The announcement came as security fears surged due to the discovery of the North’s spy drones.

By Song Sang-ho (sshluck@heraldcorp.com)

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