Concern is mounting over North Korea’s use of drones for military activities after a purported North Korean drone was found to have spied on a US advanced missile system deployed in the South.
The drone is said to have travelled about 500 kilometers undetected by the South Korean air defence system until it reached the southern city of Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province, and took more than 10 pictures of a battery for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence system deployed there.
Although the South Korean military said the drone was designed for “surveillance,” lacking the capability to transmit images back to the North in real time, analysts warned that the North could turn the device into terrorism weapons.
“The military’s response is a typical example of complacency,” said Shin In-gyun, president of the nonprofit Korea Defence Network. “Drones could be developed into models that can carry toxic gas and anthrax. I don’t have to describe what would happen if the drone sprays toxic substances above Seoul.”
The drone’s payload has yet to be confirmed by the military, but Shin noted that as the device appeared to be an advanced version of its previous model, it could have carried up to 5 kilograms of payload — capable of delivering toxic materials to the South.
According to Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, the drone found last week used an advanced twin engine and was bigger than the previous model that the military recovered in 2014. Classified as an engine-engine drone, the model was able to carry only 400 to 900 grams, capable of carrying a single grenade, the JCS analyzed.
Citing a former North Korean diplomat who defected to South Korea, the Washington Times reported in May that Pyongyang’s military has 300 to 400 attack drones capable of carrying biological and chemical weapons that could reach Seoul “within one hour.”
Analysts acknowledged that there are challenges in detecting and intercepting small-sized drones with current surveillance and air-defence assets, but stressed that the military has done so little to address what they described an “imminent threat.”
After a North Korean drone was found to have flown over the presidential palace of Cheong Wa Dae and taken pictures of it in 2014, the South Korean military announced a series of plan to ramp up its efforts to purchase and develop low-altitude radars targeting drones.
The Army decided to purchase 10 RPS-42 radars from Israel, but has yet to purchase them until now. It also began development of an indigenous radar system, but the deployment is expected to take place at least two years from now.
“The North Korean drone threat is an imminent one,” said Shin. “The military doesn’t need to stick to the idea of purchasing radars from a specific country or developing its own indigenous model. It’s time to put all the options on the table.” ___
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This article is written by Yeo Jun-Suk from The Korea Herald, Seoul / Asia News Network and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.