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(4th LD) S. Korea says two drones are from N. Korea

2014/04/02 18:10

(ATTN: UPDATES with NSC holding meeting in last para)

SEOUL, April 2 (Yonhap) -- South Korea has concluded that the two drones that were recently found near the border with North Korea were from the communist nation, a defense ministry official said Wednesday, prompting the military to seek measures to tighten air space security.

South Korea recovered two unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) near the border -- one found in Paju, just south of the demilitarized zone, on March 24, and the other discovered on Baengnyeong Island near the tensely guarded western maritime border on Monday when North Korea held a live-fire drill.

The two unmanned aerial vehicles found near the inter-Korean border -- one (L) found in Paju, just south of the demilitarized zone, on March 24, 2014 and the other drone discovered on Baengnyeong Island on April 1, 2014 (Yonhap)

The two unmanned aerial vehicles found near the inter-Korean border -- one (L) found in Paju, just south of the demilitarized zone, on March 24, 2014 and the other drone discovered on Baengnyeong Island on April 1, 2014 (Yonhap)

A team of military officials and experts dissembled the drones to conduct an in-depth analysis and came to the conclusion that Pyongyang has developed the two UAVs for surveillance of South Korea, the ministry said.

"The two unmanned aerial vehicles are prime-type spy drones," the defense ministry official spoke on condition of anonymity. "While advanced spy drones can adapt their flight paths to different terrains, the North's drones cannot change their flight altitudes though they use the Global Positioning System."

   The sky blue drones were equipped with a Japanese camera and Chinese parts, but they didn't have wireless transmission system that can send image data in real time.

The aircraft that crashed on Baengnyeong Island was briefly spotted by a radar on Monday, when the two Koreas exchanged hundreds of rounds of artillery into the western sea during the North's live-fire drill.

The 3.2 meter-long fixed-wing drone can fly at an altitude of 3 km with a maximum speed of 162 km per hour, capable of conducting missions within a 4-km radius. It can carry 20 kg to 25 kg of ammunition and land on the ground using a parachute.

The other drone found in Paju, which is smaller in size, has inscriptions in Korean with North Korean spelling standard on the back of its lithium-ion battery, along with an expiration date.

It flew in a southward direction to Seoul and then turned back toward north, but the aircraft was not detected by the low-altitude surveillance radar, the official said.

The aircraft is known to contain pictures of military installations and even the residential quarters of Seoul's presidential compound, revealing holes in South Korea's air defense.

"The drones could be used in terrorism if developed, though they cannot conduct such missions," the official said, stressing urgent need to prepare countermeasures.

In light of the incident, the defense ministry pledged to work together with other related agencies to draw up measures to defend against such drones and other small aircraft that are hard to detect by radar.

"The military is preparing measures to deal with unmanned aerial vehicles, including North Korea's lightweight aircraft, to complement the air-defense operation system," the defense ministry said.

"The ministry will also consult with the related agencies to draw up measures to control civilian UAVs and the registration system," it added.

Also Wednesday, presidential national security adviser Kim Jang-soo presided over an emergency meeting of the National Security Council to discuss how to beef up the country's air defenses against such unmanned aircraft, sources said. Details of the discussions were not immediately available.

ejkim@yna.co.kr

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