Inflatable drone deployed at NLL

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Inflatable drone deployed at NLL

An unmanned, helium-filled surveillance drone capable of operating 24 hours a day will be dispatched to Baengnyeong Island in the Yellow Sea, some 230 kilometers (142.9 miles) northwest of Seoul, a military official said Sunday.

The special-purpose inflatable craft, equipped with a state-of-the-art surveillance device, is expected to “put movements of North Korean army across Baengnyeong Island under surveillance day and night,” said the official.

After the shelling of nearby Yeongpyeong Island in Nov. 2010, the military recognized the need for a strategic craft to get intelligence on the movements of North Korean ships across the maritime border, the official said.

The North’s shelling of Yeongpyeong left four men dead, including two civilians, and was the first shelling of Korean soil since the 1950-53 Korean War. It strained inter-Korean relations already damaged by the sinking of the Cheonan warship eight months earlier.

Looking like a dirigible, the craft will be tethered to the ground by a steel cable. It will be capable of peering tens of kilometers into the North from the maritime border regardless of weather conditions in the Yellow Sea.

“Data collected by the unmanned craft will be transmitted to the military command center in real time,” said the official. It was reported that over 24 billion won ($22 million) was invested in the surveillance project.

Meanwhile, it was reported yesterday that Seoul and Washington will agree on a pre-emptive strike against Pyongyang should it show any sign of making a nuclear attack at a Korea-U.S. Security Consultative Meeting to be held in Seoul on Oct. 2.

The two allies reportedly completed a 10-month joint study on measures to deter nuclear provocations from the North, which includes a surgical strike at nuclear arsenals in the Communist state and an interception of a ballistic missile launched from the North.

Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin and his U.S. counterpart Chuck Hagel, a Vietnam War veteran, will also discuss the chemical weapons connection between Syria and North Korea amid looming speculation that the two countries shared information on chemical weapons.

The Defense Ministry estimates North Korea has 2,500 tons to 5,000 tons of chemical weapons since it began to produce them in the early 1980s.

“We understand that the North is capable of causing damage [to the South] by equipping missiles or self-propelled artillery with chemical weapons,” said Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok during a press briefing Thursday.



BY KANG JIN-KYU AND JEONG YONG-SOO [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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