South Korea Fires At North Korean Drones Invading Airspace

(KIM JAE-HWAN/AFP via Getty Images)

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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South Korean warplanes mobilized in response to North Korean drones intruding on their airspace, with one defending fighter jet reportedly crashing during the course of events, Seoul’s military said, according to AFP.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said its military first spotted a suspected North Korean drone around 10:35 a.m. Monday local time and “responded immediately,” activating aircraft and attack helicopters and firing warning shots, according to AFP. One of the drones reached the airspace over the capital, and it was not clear whether the vehicles carried weapons.

“This is a clear act of provocation by North Korea that encroached upon our territorial air,” Maj. Gen. Lee Seung-o, director of operations at the JCS, said, local media outlet Yonhap reported. “Our military will respond thoroughly and sternly to such a North Korean provocation going forward.” (RELATED: US Space Force Stands Up New Unit In Allied Nation To Keep Close Eye On Menacing Neighbor)

Helicopters fired as many as 100 warning shots at the drones but failed to down any, according to Yonhap.

A South Korean KA-1 light attack jet went down in Hoengseong County, a territory to the east of the county encompassing Seoul, roughly an hour after the drone incursion was identified, with both pilots uninjured, Yonhap reported. It was not immediately clear whether the crash was related to the reponse to the North.

Seoul also deployed manned and unmanned spy vehicles to the Military Demarcation Line on the heavily fortified border between the two countries for “corresponding measures,” AFP reported.

“We conducted reconnaissance and operational activities, including photographing major enemy military facilities,” the JCS official said, according to AFP.

While it remained unclear whether the drones carried weapons, North Korean officials have expressed security concerns over potential for Pyongyang to conduct surveillance operations or deploy chemical or biological weapons, Yonhap reported.

North Korean vehicles have not crossed the shared border since 2017, five years ago, and reportedly photographed a U.S. military base and THAAD missile defense system, Yonhap reported.

The latest incursion follows an uptick in North Korean saber-rattling; the isolated country said it achieved a milestone in the development of a military spy satellite with a successful test earlier in December. North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un has said the development of a reconnaissance satellite is intended to assist in obtaining real-time information regarding U.S. military activities, according to Reuters.

Japan and South Korea reported Pyongyang fired two medium-range ballistic missiles into the waters on the peninsula’s eastern coast that same week, the isolated country’s first missile tests in a month, according to Reuters. The North also unveiled a high-thrust solid-fuel engine to accelerate more powerful launches of ballistic missiles, extending their range.

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