A new security challengeNorth Korea made a brazen provocation against South Korea by sending two of its unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as drones, to gather sensitive information on our military facilities. One flew over the capital city of Seoul to take pictures of the Blue House and the other over Baengnyeong Island near the tense maritime border. The government and the military must cope with a new security challenge represented by the unprecedented drone intrusions following a series of nuclear and missile tests as well as ever-growing cyberattacks.
But we are disappointed by the dilly-dallying of the Ministry of National Defense after the North’s audacious infiltration of its drones into our airspace. When the first unidentified drone crashed in Paju, a border city near the demilitarized zone, on March 24, the ministry hurriedly said that it was too early to tell if the drone was really sent by the North. Seven days later, the ministry reacted to the crash of another drone on the island in the Yellow Sea in the same way: It only raised the possibility of North Korea’s involvement in the drone campaign after wavering for two days.
Moreover, the ministry said at the beginning that the first drone didn’t approach the presidential compound and the quality of photos taken by it was even lower than that of photos provided by Google Earth. As it turned out, however, those photos were of high quality - clear enough to identify many buildings in the Blue House compound.
What makes us worry most is the fact that the authorities reacted to such an obviously alarming case in such an unconvincing manner. First of all, they gave us the impression that they are busy hiding something or downplaying the drone penetration. Security experts now raise the accusation that the military has reacted to the infiltration just as it did at the time of the Cheonan sinking: with a laid-back, unprincipled and false report through the command chain and an attempt to downsize, cover up or manipulate what really happened. The people are nervously watching the Ministry of National Defense.
Another problem is that our military didn’t prepare for the drone penetration even when it has long been aware of the North’s continuous monitoring of our military installations and operations through drones over five islands around the Northern Limit Line on the Yellow Sea. The military and the Blue House must come up with effective measures to tackle this new security threat before it’s too late. They must reinforce personnel and equipment systems as well as upgrade our air defense systems to reflect the changed security environment in order to secure the ability to detect and destroy drones from the North from the outset.
The government must also hold any officials accountable for its inadequate response to the drone infiltration. No excuse can be accepted now that we know a North Korean drone took pictures of the presidential office while hovering around it at will.
JoongAng Ilbo, April 4, Page 34
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