Stop the drones

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Stop the drones

The Ministry of National Defense has announced that the unmanned aerial vehicles discovered in South Korea must have been made in North Korea. The three drones crashed on Baengnyeong Island on the tense maritime border in the West Sea, in Paju, Gyeonggi, and in Samcheok, Gangwon, on the east coast. In a press briefing yesterday, the ministry presented plenty of evidence to prove the North’s reconnaissance on our military facilities. All of the drones flew from North to South and then back to the North; they took pictures of the Blue House and other sensitive facilities like our military bases on the east coast and off the west coast; and the color and shape of the drones were the same as those on drones the North revealed two years ago. In addition, the aircraft’s relatively short flying range of 180 kilometers to 300 kilometers (112 miles to 186 miles) suggests they could not have come from other countries.

However, our Defense Ministry did not 100 percent confirm the accountability of the North. Our military has not yet dissected the central processing units (CPUs) of the computers on the drones, which probably contain information on their point of origin and flight route. The authorities are concerned about the possibility that probing the CPU could damage data in it. We welcome the ministry’s decision to set up a joint scientific investigation team that includes civilian experts from both Korea and the United States. A prudent approach to finding decisive pieces of evidence cannot be overemphasized. If North Korea turns out to be responsible for the drone missions, the government should take stern measures as that is a brazen infiltration of our air space. Air space intrusion is an unequivocal violation of the 1953 Armistice and the 1944 Convention on International Civil Aviation.

The penetration of the drones also exposed loopholes in our defense. The drone in Paju was reported to Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin only nine days after its discovery, and our military showed a critically slow response at the initial stage. A four-day joint investigation between military and civilian sectors also couldn’t reach a conclusion on the potential culpability of North Korea. We are dumbfounded at our military’s lack of information on the North’s weapons systems.

The military must stop North Korean drone penetration into our space by establishing effective systems to detect, distinguish and destroy drones. Military authorities said the three drones were made of commercially available parts from South Korea, America, China, Japan and the Czech Republic. We must control any possible smuggling of military equipment to North Korea.

That will also help prevent Pyongyang from exporting its drones to dangerous countries in the world. In a meaningful step, our Defense Ministry has decided to develop its own small, precise and multipurpose drones. We must pressure the North to scrap its strategy of developing drones.

JoongAng Ilbo, April 12, Page 30

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