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

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Judge Declares Washington DC Ban on Public Handguns Unconstitutional

Ruling overturns capital city's prohibition on carrying guns in pubic More

Pricey Hepatitis C Drug Draws Criticism

Activists are using the International AIDS Conference to criticize drug companies for charging high prices for life-saving therapies 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.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid