A suspected North Korean drone spied on U.S. missile defense systems in South Korea and almost got away with it.
The unmanned aerial vehicle crashed near the demilitarized zone, where it was discovered on June 9. The South Korean military reports that the drone took around 10 photographs of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system in South Korea, according to Reuters.
The drone is believed to be of North Korean origin, as it resembles North Korean drones that have entered South Korea in the past.
The first elements of THAAD was deployed in March after North Korea fired a salvo of four extended-range Scud missiles into the East Sea/Sea of Japan during a military drill. The missile shield achieved “initial intercept capability” in May.
North Korea is extremely hostile to the deployment of the THAAD anti-missile system. “If THAAD is deployed in South Korea, it will be exposed to nuclear strikes here and there as the primary target,” the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said in a highly-critical report last September.
North Korea has been watching the THAAD deployment carefully, even taking satellite photos.
North Korea’s state-run Korean Central TV Broadcasting Station aired two satellite images of the THAAD deployment site and the ballistic missile defense batteries in May. “The satellite pictures show the THAAD (missile) launcher is currently deployed near the northern ridge of the Seongju golf course while the X-band radar and other auxiliary equipment are installed near the western ridge from the center,” the broadcaster said.
North Korea is not the only country strongly opposed to the deployment of a U.S. anti-missile system in South Korea.
China and Russia assert that the U.S. is using the North Korean threat as an excuse to expand its ballistic missile defense in the area, crippling the nuclear deterrence capabilities of these two countries. Beijing and Moscow have both threatened, on multiple occasions, to take “necessary measures” to counter THAAD.
Even in South Korea, there is a debate over whether THAAD is in the best interest of the country. While the system has soured relations between Seoul and Beijing, some observers assert that South Korea’s national security is in jeopardy as North Korea continues to advance its missile program at an unprecedented pace.
North Korea has fired off a dozen ballistic missiles, as well as multiple coastal defense cruise missiles and surface-to-air missiles, and Pyongyang has warned that an intercontinental ballistic missile test is close at hand.
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