[Editorial] Augmenting our response to drone provocations

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[Editorial] Augmenting our response to drone provocations

Five drones from North Korea flew across the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) in the western region of Gyeonggi, including Ganghwa Island and Gimpo and Paju cities, on Monday morning. Our military responded to the penetration immediately. In the process, our Air Force fighter jets and Army’s attack helicopters took off to shoot down the drones. That caused a temporary suspension of air traffic at Incheon International Airport and Kimpo Airport.

North Korean drone infiltration into our space is nothing new. But such a large-scale air penetration is the first of its kind. North Korea knows well that the drones will be detected by the South Korean military, but it brazenly sent the drones.

Our military authorities linked the dispatch of drones to the need for the North to carry out aerial reconnaissance on major military facilities in the South to find their exact locations for future military operations. North Korea deployed more than 300 long-range multiple rocket launchers at the front lines around the capital region, but it first needs aerial photos on exact locations of our military facilities for precise attacks.

North Korea has sent drones to South Korea on several occasions, including in 2014 and 2017, to take aerial picture of the Blue House and the Thaad missile defense units in North Gyeongsang. Pyongyang recently threatened to launch a spy satellite after releasing a photo of downtown Seoul allegedly taken by a ballistic missile.

But our military’s ability to effectively respond to North Korean drones sounds alarms. The North possesses 300 to 400 kamikaze and spy drones. It may have learned from the Russia-Ukraine war in which the two countries bomb the enemy’s military and civilian facilities through drone attacks. North Korea could do the same with unmanned aerial vehicles or smaller drones if the need arises.

But our military’s preparedness to the threat seems to be lacking. The Ministry of National Defense introduced a radar system from Israel after the North’s drone penetration in 2014. But due to the limited deployment of the radar and the small size of drones, it is difficult to intercept them. The Defense Acquisition Program Administration plans to develop our own anti-drone jamming system dubbed “K-jammer” with a 24.4-billion-won ($19.1 million) budget.

The North’s recent drone penetration coincides with the development of ballistic missiles. That’s only possible in wartime. North Korea is expected to conduct its seventh nuclear test soon. Our military should be on alert about the North’s endless provocations. It must augment a counterattack capability with the U.S. forces. North Korea must stop such provocations immediately as they cannot ensure its survival.
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