President Park Geun-hye on Monday blasted the South Korean military’s inability to detect and block North Korean drones, calling for a stepped-up security posture.
Her criticism came as Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin convened a meeting of the top military brass to enhance air defense, which critics argue proved “porous” after the discovery of three drones, presumably from the North.
“The drones appeared to have carried out their reconnaissance missions in all directions of our country, and our military authorities were not aware of this at all. That means there are problems with our air defense and ground-based reconnaissance system,” said Park during a meeting with her senior secretaries.
“We should formulate measures to prepare (against the drones) and strengthen our patrols around major military facilities, and ensure that we maintain a top security posture.”
Last Sunday, the South Korean military discovered a third drone, possibly from the North, on a mountain in Samcheok, Gangwon Province. The discovery came after a drone was found in Paju on March 24 and another on the border island of Baengnyeongdo on March 31.
Park issued her criticism, pointing to citizens’ rising security concerns. Pyongyang has recently raised military tension by launching ballistic missiles, warning of a “new form” of nuclear test and firing artillery shells south of the inter-Korean sea border.
Political pundits said that Park felt the need to address the security fears as the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy apparently jumped on the drone issue to attack the government ahead of the local elections slated for June.
“Over the span of six months, three drones have crashed. We’ll never know how many drones have come here, perhaps 100 times or 1,000 times. The government would have no excuse even if we call it ‘incompetent’ in terms of security,” said Ahn Cheol-soo, cochair of the NPAD, during a meeting of his party leaders.
At the meeting of top military commanders, Defense Minister Kim ordered them to quickly strengthen capabilities to monitor, detect, identify and strike hostile unmanned aerial vehicles, first with the existing military assets.
Defining the drone-based military campaign as a new security threat, the commanders also agreed to explore new air defense tactics and strategies to help secure frontline areas.
|Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin presides over a meeting of top military brass to enhance air defense on Monday. (Yonhap)|
“North Korea might have developed small drones to offset the intelligence gap with the South. But it is expected that the North will further develop the drones for stealthy infiltrations or terrorist attacks,” said Kim.
“Thus, it is urgent for us to craft measures to cope with the drone threat. I direct you to think about mid- and long-term measures against those drones that can be mobilized for attack missions.”
Defense Ministry spokesperson Kim Min-seok said that all of the three drones carried numbers ― 35 for the drone found in Samcheok, 24 for the one in Paju and six for the one on Baengnyeongdo Island.
Some observers say those numbers indicated the number of military drones the North has so far deployed.
Should it be ultimately confirmed that those drones were sent by the North, Seoul will seek to take strong measures including legal action for illegally entering South Korea’s airspace.
“Should it be confirmed, the drones’ infiltration into the South would constitute a violation of the Armistice Agreement, and that would also run afoul of the international rules,” said the ministry spokesperson.
Meanwhile, Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Choi Yoon-hee talked with U.S. Forces Korea Commander Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti over the phone about defense cooperation in handling the new threat from North Korea’s military drones.
“South Korea and the U.S. agreed to build a joint system to respond to the threat of North Korean drones with their existing allied military assets, and strongly respond to expected future provocations such as another nuclear test, launches of additional missiles and provocations around the border regions,” the JCS said in a press release.
By Song Sang-ho (firstname.lastname@example.org)