Wednesday, June 28

Suspected North Korean drone spies on US anti-missile system before crashing, South Korea says

A suspected North Korean drone took photographs of an advanced United States anti-missile battery in South Korea before crashing while apparently on its way back home, the South Korean military says.

The drone, mounted with a camera, was found last week in a forest near the border with North Korea.

It was similar in size and shape to a North Korean drone found in 2014 on an island near the border.

“We confirmed that it took about 10 photos,” of the anti-missile system, known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD), a South Korean Defence Ministry official said.

The drone was suspected to be from North Korea, the official added.

South Korea is deploying the US anti-missile defence system in the Seongju region, about 250 kilometres from the border with North Korea, to counter a growing missile threat from the North.

“We will come up with measures to deal with North Korean drones,” an official at South Korea’s Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

North Korean drones are known to have flown over South Korea several times.

North Korea has about 300 unmanned aerial vehicles of different types including one designed for reconnaissance as well as combat drones, the United Nations said in a report last year.

The North Korean drones recovered in South Korea were probably procured through front companies in China, with parts manufactured in China, the Czech Republic, Japan and the United States, it added.

Rare defection across Demilitarised Zone

Later on Tuesday, the South’s military said a North Korean soldier defected to the South across their heavily mined border, known as the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ).

Such crossings across the land border are unusual but not unprecedented, although most of the on average 1,000 North Koreans who defect to the South every year travel through China.

The last crossing by a North Korean soldier across the DMZ was in September last year.

South Korea and the US agreed last year to deploy the THAAD unit in response to North Korea’s relentless development of its ballistic missiles, and nuclear weapons, in defiance of UN sanctions.

China strongly objects to the THAAD system, saying its powerful radar could probe deep into its territory, undermining its security and upsetting a regional balance.

South Korea and the US said the system was aimed solely at defending against North Korean missiles.


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