South Korea finds drone along bor­der; North sus­pected.

Hun­dreds of mis­sile pho­tos found

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY GUY TAY­LOR This ar­ti­cle is based on wire ser­vice re­ports.

A sus­pected North Korean spy drone flew more than 100 miles into South Korea and snapped pho­tos of the re­cently de­ployed U.S. anti-bal­lis­tic mis­sile sys­tem be­fore cir­cling back and crash­ing on the south­ern side of the for­ti­fied bor­der that di­vides the Korean penin­sula.

De­fense of­fi­cials in Seoul said Tues­day the small un­manned craft was equipped with a 64-gi­ga­byte mem­ory chip and a cam­era made by the Ja­panese tech gi­ant Sony, and was sim­i­lar in size to other North Korean drones re­cov­ered af­ter crash­ing in the South in 2014.

The dis­cov­ery co­in­cides with con­cern in Wash­ing­ton over Py­ongyang’s drone op­er­a­tions fol­low­ing re­cent warn­ings by a high-level North Korean de­fec­tor, who claimed the Kim Jong-un regime has a fleet ca­pa­ble of be­ing armed with chem­i­cal and bi­o­log­i­cal weapons, and of avoid­ing radars, in­clud­ing the U.S. Ter­mi­nal High Al­ti­tude Area De­fense (THAAD) sys­tem.

Wash­ing­ton has re­cently de­ployed THAAD com­po­nents to Seongju, South Korea — a re­mote hill­side county roughly 150 miles south of the so-called “Demil­i­ta­rized Zone” along the North-South bor­der — in re­sponse to in­creased bal­lis­tic mis­sile test­ing by Py­ongyang.

Tues­day’s devel­op­ment sug­gests the North Kore­ans may have closely mon­i­tored the de­ploy­ment with drones. “It was con­firmed that [the drone] took pho­tos of the THAAD site in Seongju,” said one South Korean de­fense of­fi­cial, who briefed re­porters on con­di­tion of anonymity Tues­day, ac­cord­ing to the South’s Yon­hap news agency.

THAAD’s de­ploy­ment has been sharply op­posed by China, North Korea’s main ally and eco­nomic sup­porter, which claims the real rea­son be­hind Wash­ing­ton’s de­ploy­ment is to spy on and con­tain Chi­nese — not just North Korean — mil­i­tary as­sets.

U.S. of­fi­cials say the Chi­nese com­plaints are unfounded and have al­ter­na­tively pushed for China to pres­sure Py­ongyang into aban­don­ing its nu­clear weapons and mis­sile provo­ca­tions.

South Korean of­fi­cials, mean­while, said the wreck­age of the sus­pected North Korean drone, dis­cov­ered on a moun­tain­side Fri­day, in­cluded a cam­era that had cap­tured 10 pho­tos of THAAD’s truck-mounted rocket launch­ers and radar com­po­nents.

The of­fi­cials said they had not yet de­ter­mined whether the drone trans­mit­ted the pho­tos to Py­ongyang prior to crash­ing, and that ad­di­tional pho­tos stored on the cam­era were mostly of res­i­den­tial ar­eas and agri­cul­tural fields.

The drone is be­lieved to have gone down be­cause it ran out of fuel while re­turn­ing to North Korea. It crashed in the South’s Gang­won Prov­ince — some 130 miles north of where THAAD is po­si­tioned in Seongju.

While its flight pat­tern is un­clear, the crash site’s prox­im­ity to the South’s eastern coast along the Sea of Ja­pan sug­gests the drone may have hugged the shore­line to avoid de­tec­tion. “We will come up with mea­sures to deal with North Korean drones,” said an of­fi­cial at South Korea’s Of­fice of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who also de­clined to be iden­ti­fied.

Con­cern about drones has mounted amid re­cent claims by a high-level North Korean de­fec­tor, who said last month that Py­ongyang is ca­pa­ble of fly­ing the de­vices at low al­ti­tudes to avoid radar de­tec­tion and thwart a South Korean mil­i­tary sys­tem that uses elec­tronic jam­ming to pre­vent drone in­cur­sions.

The de­fec­tor, a 42-year-old for­mer third sec­re­tary who fled the North’s regime in 2015, also claimed Py­ongyang has at­tack drones ca­pa­ble of car­ry­ing bi­o­log­i­cal and chem­i­cal weapons to Seoul within one hour.

North Korea has run a clan­des­tine pro­gram since the late 1990s that in­cludes prepa­ra­tions to mount such weapons on drones for aerial at­tacks, ac­cord­ing to an in­ter­view with the de­fec­tor us­ing the alias Jin-myeong Han that the Sekai Nippo news­pa­per in Ja­pan pub­lished in May.

The news­pa­per de­scribed Mr. Han has hav­ing be­gun his ca­reer in the North Korean air force and hav­ing once been in­volved in man­ag­ing the regime’s drone ac­tiv­i­ties. “My guess is that it has 300 to 400 drones,” Mr. Han said, adding that the drones are stored un­der­ground to avoid de­tec­tion by U.S. and other re­con­nais­sance satel­lites.

Py­ongyang’s drone fleet has been known for some time. Spec­u­la­tion surged in 2014 when three North Korean drones crashed in South Korean ter­ri­tory. Mil­i­tary of­fi­cials in Seoul said those un­manned crafts were also mounted with Ja­panese cam­eras.

A U.N. re­port last year said Py­ongyang has about 300 drones of dif­fer­ent types, in­clud­ing re­con­nais­sance and com­bat. The re­port said the drones pre­vi­ously re­cov­ered in South Korea were prob­a­bly ac­quired through front com­pa­nies in China, with parts man­u­fac­tured in the U.S., Ja­pan, the Czech Re­pub­lic and China.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A sus­pected North Korean drone crashed near the bor­der be­tween North and South Korea in Inje. South Korean of­fi­cials found the un­manned air­craft and it found that it had taken pho­tos of a U.S. mis­sile de­fense shield. In­ves­ti­ga­tors found hun­dreds of pho­tos.

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