North and South spat over drones

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North and South spat over drones

The South Korean government yesterday rejected North Korea’s proposal to launch a joint investigation into the three drones that crashed in South Korea, describing the offer as psychological warfare on the part of Pyongyang.

“North Korea’s National Defense Commission proposing a joint probe into the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) is merely a vulgar psychological warfare tactic meant to cause division within South Korea,” said Kim Min-seok, a spokesman with the Ministry of National Defense, in a briefing yesterday. “There is no value in discussing it.”

The spokesman further noted that Pyongyang is repeating its practice of feigning an offer of cooperation with Seoul even when it is in the wrong, which was shown after a North Korean torpedo sank the Cheonan warship in March 2010, killing 46 South Korean Marines. Denying it was responsible for the shelling, North Korea offered to conduct a joint investigation after a team of international experts from South Korea, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Sweden concluded the warship was sunk by North Korea. South Korea declined that proposal, too.

Three digital camera-equipped drones were found in different spots in South Korea - Paju in Gyeonggi, Baengnyeong Island in the Yellow Sea, and Samcheok in Gangwon - between last October and March 31. The one found in Paju flew above the Blue House and took photos every second at one point before crashing, fanning concerns that South Korea’s aerial security is slack and forcing Seoul to come up with countermeasures such as introducing low-altitude radar to detect smaller aircraft.

North Korea’s National Defense Commission made the offer of a joint investigation into the three crashed drones late Monday night.

Arguing that the drones were not from North Korea, the commission said in a statement that the photographs taken by the drones and fingerprints found on them that are not in South Korea’s database don’t constitute evidence of their origin - neither do the drones sky-blue coloring or certain words printed on the batteries.

Seoul says the Korean words found on the batteries used spelling and vocabulary favored in North Korea, not South Korea.

As with the Cheonan shelling three years earlier, the drones have been another source of ideological bickering in South Korea.

Jung Chung-rae, a lawmaker with the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, raised suspicions at the National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs Committee on Friday that the drones may not have originated from North Korea.

“Look at the font [on the words found on the batteries],” he said. “This is Araea Korean font. North Korea usually uses Gwangmyeong Napjack font, doesn’t it? This is a comedy.”

The remarks led to an online battle on Facebook and Twitter. Outraged by the leftist lawmaker’s remarks, ruling Saenuri Party lawmaker Kim Jin-tae wrote on his Facebook account, “Representative Jung seems to be dying to side with North Korea. Go to your own country [North Korea].”

Representative Jung riposted by via Twitter, “Are you dying to go to jail? I will send you to jail, your resting place. Blame your mouth. I’ll have you dealt with according to the law.”

Those attacks prompted NPAD co-leader Kim Han-gill to issue a warning yesterday, pointing out that there are only 50 days left before the June 4 local elections.

BY SEO JI-EUN [spring@joongang.co.kr]



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