News / Asia

Alleged N. Korean Drones Fly Over Seoul Presidential House

The wreckage of a crashed drone found on Baengnyeong island near the disputed waters of the Yellow Sea, March 31, 2014.
The wreckage of a crashed drone found on Baengnyeong island near the disputed waters of the Yellow Sea, March 31, 2014.
South Korea has acknowledged a surveillance drone, likely operated by North Korea, flew over the presidential palace in Seoul and took several pictures, before crashing near the border.

Seoul says the crudely built, unmanned aircraft was equipped with a basic camera containing about 200 aerial photographs, including some taken from directly above the presidential Blue House.

Defense Minister Kim Min-seok said the drone, which was less than two meters long, did not have the capability to transmit the images back to North Korea and was not able to be weaponized.

"It is of primitive standard, and it would not have been easy to use it in an act of terror, or more precisely, it would not have been possible," he said. " But it could possibly be used in an act of terror if it gets more developed for long time in the future."

2nd drone crash

The aircraft, found in the border city of Paju, was one of two suspected North Korean drones that crashed late last month in South Korean territory. The other was recovered on the frontline Baengnyeong Island after the two Koreas exchanged artillery fire into one another's sea boundaries.

Many Korea analysts are downplaying the danger posed by the drones, saying they appear to be poorly designed and unsophisticated.  

"It looks like something I made with my friends in high school. I'm actually pretty impressed that they managed to mount a camera on there," said Robert Kelly, an international relations professor at Pusan National University in South Korea.

Kelly, who spoke with VOA by telephone, was referring to pictures in South Korean media that showed wreckage of the light-blue aircraft, which almost had a toy-like appearance.

"I wouldn't really define this as much of a threat. These things are pretty small, and [the North Koreans] already know what the Blue House is -- you can see the Blue House on Google Earth, and you can sort of drive by it," he noted. " If they were going to drop a bomb on top of the Blue House, it's not too hard to find. I'm not really convinced this is a game changer."

Rising threat?

Others see the drones as part of a rising threat posed by North Korea's fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles.

"I think this does represent a threat," said Mark Fitzpatrick, the director of the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies. " It's not the worst of the threats that North Korea poses. These drones can't carry chemical weapons or other weapons of mass destruction. But they're certainly indicators of malicious intent."

Fitzpatrick said with enough time, Pyongyang can likely produce much more sophisticated drone technology without much difficulty.

"It's not such a state of the art technology. Drone technology is becoming very widespread," he noted. "And given North Korea's military relationship with Iran, which has developed drones of its own and which has been the benefactor of a couple of U.S. very sophisticated drones which crashed on its territory, some of that technology could easily be acquired. So I think what we're seeing today with these toy-like surveillance drones - they're just the beginning of what we'll be seeing in the future."

Pyongyang's motive

It is unclear what North Korea intended to accomplish by sending the drones into the South.

Remco Breuker, a professor of Korean studies at Leiden University in the Netherlands, told VOA he would not rule out the possibility that the drone mission is a prelude to a wider escalation of military tensions.

"The thing I'd be worried about now is the North Korean intentions. They've quite clearly, I think, not respected South Korean territorial integrity again. And I wonder what's behind that, and whether we are looking at another escalation of tensions like we saw last year," Breuker said.

Tensions between the two Koreas have risen in recent weeks because of annual joint U.S.-South Korean military drills and a series of rocket and ballistic missile launches by Pyongyang.

Earlier this week, North Korea fired 100 artillery rounds into the sea on the South Korean side of the maritime border, prompting Seoul to fire its own rounds back into northern waters. No one was injured in the exchange.

The two Koreas remain in a technical state of war following their 1950s armed conflict, which ended in a truce and not a formal peace treaty.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Not Again from: Canada
April 03, 2014 11:08 AM
The concerning aspect is the fact that it was not detected and that it did manage to fly over a very sensitive location. As far as payloads, the sky is the limit, as long as it does not exceed the take off/lift capacity. The fact that it does not transmit, makes it more difficult to detect.. Simple tools are usually the most effective and in this case the most dangerous...!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid