South Korea’s defense ministry has admitted that a North Korean drone briefly flew around the no-fly zone over the presidential palace in Seoul on Boxing Day. That day, five North Korean drones flew over South Korea for hours. The South Korean defense sent fighter jets against the drones, but failed to bring them down.
The army has so far denied that the drones had been near the presidential palace, but on Thursday had to admit that one of the unmanned aerial vehicles had succeeded. All air traffic is prohibited within a radius of 3.7 kilometers around the President’s office.
According to the Ministry of Defence, one of the drones entered the area from the north. The ministry stresses that there has been no risk to people in the area. The drone has also not been “near important security facilities”, the ministry writes.
The five drones entered South Korean airspace near the border town of Gimpo, northwest of Seoul, around 10:30 a.m. on December 26. From there they spread out and flew over several cities for hours. The South Korean military tried unsuccessfully to shoot down the drones with fighter jets and a helicopter. The army command has apologized for the error.
Caught on the wrong foot
Experts were surprised by the South Korean military’s slow response. “The army was caught off guard,” Cha Du-hyeogn, security adviser to former President Lee Myung-bak and now a researcher at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul, told the news site. Al Jazeera. “All response systems need to be reviewed again.”
President Yoon Suk-yeol said the incident showed that the army’s preparedness “leaves much to be desired”. In an emergency cabinet meeting immediately after the incident, Yoon had already pointed out the need for “more intensive training”.
The president also announced that a special military unit is being formed for this type of attack with small drones. He also wants his country to develop drones with so-called stealth technology, which makes them largely invisible to radar.
Yoon last week blamed his predecessor Moon Jae-in for the lack of preparedness. Moon sought a rapprochement with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un a few years ago. In 2018, there have been several meetings between the two managers. In that year, an agreement was also reached in which both sides promised to end hostile activities in the border area. Among other things, the agreement has created buffer zones in both countries.
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President Yoon, who is taking a tougher line on North Korea than his predecessor, said on Wednesday he would suspend the deal if another incident occurs. Yoon said South Korea would retaliate if the North violated its airspace again. “The risk of an escalation”, he said to take for granted.
Tensions between the two countries, which are still formally at war, escalate regularly. North Korea has been active for months, including conducting missile tests and nuclear threats. North Korea conducted nearly 70 missile tests in 2022, three times as many as any other year since Kim Jong-un came to power.
In September 2022, the North Koreans passed a new law that prohibits negotiating the possession of nuclear weapons. Since then, the country has simulated attacks on South Korean targets with tactical nuclear weapons. Kim Jong-un then said that if the people, the leadership or the existence of the country is threatened, North Korea would automatically carry out a “preemptive nuclear strike”.
“Talking about disarmament is out of the question right now,” David Schmerler of the Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey told the news agency. Bloomberg. In 2017, the UN Security Council imposed sanctions on North Korea after the country conducted a nuclear test. The chance that tougher sanctions would follow a potential new nuclear test appears to be out of the question at the moment. Russia and China will surely veto it.
According to Lee Sang-keun, director of the Institute for National Security Strategy in Seoul, it may even be one of the reasons for the violation of South Korean airspace. “By increasing the tension now, they are creating a pretext for another nuclear test.”