South Korea on Wednesday pointed to North Korea as a strong suspect in a probe into where two crashed drones—one of which reportedly neared the presidential office in Seoul—came from.
Seoul on Wednesday disclosed the photos of a pair of unidentified drones—one found on Baengnyeong Island in the Yellow Sea Monday after the two Koreas traded hundreds of rounds of artillery fire in the area, and the other in Paju, north of Seoul on March 24.
A joint investigation team of military, intelligence and aeronautics experts were looking into the unmanned aerial vehicles to draw a final conclusion on their origin, the defense ministry in Seoul said.
“The final investigation results have yet to come out, but a review is underway that North Korea is thought to have done it,” South Korean presidential spokesman Min Kyung-wook told reporters.
Seoul’s defense ministry declined to give details of the ongoing probe, while disclosing photographs of the wrecked drones under scrutiny.
Both drones in the images were painted light blue and looked like model aircraft with cameras built in. One discovered in Paju measures 1.43 meters (4.7 feet) long and weighs 15 kilograms (33 pounds) while the other recovered from Baengnyeong Island is 1.83 meters in length and 12.7 kilograms in weight, the defense ministry in Seoul said.
South Korean media, quoting unnamed investigators, reported Wednesday that the drone recovered from Paju contains a lithium-ion battery inscribed with a dialect of Korean usually used in the North
“The suspected North Korean drones both look like rudimentary model aircraft,” said Shin In-kyun, a defense expert who leads Korea Defense Network, an online-based civic group campaigning for South Korea’s enhanced national security and defense systems. “Despite its crude designs, each aircraft seems to be faithful to its basic function—aerial espionage—by carrying a high-definition camera, which should never be ignored in terms of security.”
JoongAng Ilbo, a Seoul-based newspaper quoting one of the investigators, said the drone had been programmed to fly southward, undetected and low, near the presidential office in Seoul to take photos with a built-in camera. It later slammed into a hill in Paju on its way back north.
The allegedly unchecked aerial reconnaissance by an unidentified drone near the presidential house would have been a serious national security breach, JoongAng said, adding South Korea radars may probably have wrongly recognized the low-flying drone as a bird.
The North has displayed drone-like aerial vehicles during its military parades, and in March last year its state media reported dictator Kim Jong Un guided a drill of “super precision drones.”
South Korea has been eager to bolster its own capabilities to spy on North Korea with reconnaissance drones. In March, Seoul confirmed an $817 million military procurement deal to secure Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles from Northrop Grumman Corp. NOC +0.46%
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