News / Asia

    North Korea Appears Capable of Jamming GPS Receivers

    A Garmin global positioning navigational system, or GPS (FILE).
    A Garmin global positioning navigational system, or GPS (FILE).

    Defense officials in South Korea and military analysts elsewhere are expressing concern about what they call a new type of threat from Pyongyang. The North Koreans, according to South Korea's government, are now capable of disrupting GPS receivers, which are a critical component of modern military and civilian navigation.

    This week, the South Korea Communications Commission informed lawmakers that between August 23 and 25, signals emanating from near the North Korean city of Kaesong interfered with South Korean GPS military and civilian receivers on land and at sea.

    Officials say the jammers were repeatedly switched on for 10-minute periods over a number of hours during the three days.

    Sources in South Korea, Japan and the United States say defense officials in all three countries are concerned about Pyongyang's apparent ability to disrupt GPS navigation, and are discussing its ramifications.

    Military use of GPS receivers

    GPS uses up to 32 satellites operated by the U.S. Air Force. It is freely accessible to anyone with a receiver, but it has a range of critical military uses.

    Retired U.S. Marine Colonel Andy Harp, a military analyst and author, notes that the military applications go beyond guiding bombs and missiles.

    "It can be involved with air support, air delivery, artillery. The entire system, to a great extent, relies on GPS," says Colonel Harp.

    U.S. Forces Korea spokesman Colonel Jonathan Withington declined to assess the reported North Korean jamming, saying it is a matter of intelligence and operational security.

    "We also would not be able to comment on our assessment of the effects of North Korean jamming on any civilian commercial systems. While U.S. military forces do use GPS navigation technology, our forces are not reliant on the GPS to conduct ground, air or sea operations and routinely train to operate in a contested electronic environment," Willington said.

    Military specialists point out that while some guided bombs might be affected by jamming, newer weapons would not be.

    North Korea's culture of military creativity

    Colonel Harp, who headed the Marines' Crisis Action Team that monitored developments in North Korea, is not surprised by North Korea's new ability.

    "The North Koreans are great innovators," he says. "So we have to be greatly wary of what they develop and what they're capable of. The North Koreans are technologically trying to make advances across the entire front and it has to be a great concern to stay ahead of their efforts."

    That sentiment is echoed by South Korea's defense minister, Kim Tae-young. He told members of the National Assembly the North Korean GPS jamming poses a "new kind of threat." Kim referred to an intelligence report saying the North Koreans can mount devices on vehicles that can jam GPS signals within a 50 to 100 kilometer radius.

    Asymetrical warfare


    Some defense analysts say while the North Korean action is unprecedented it should not have caught the South Korean military by surprise.

    Professor Park Young-wook, with Kwangwoon University's Defense Industry Research Institute, says several scholars predicted the North would acquire such technology. This is the first publicly known incident attributed to North Korea, says Park. And she agrees it must be considered a serious threat if it reoccurs because GPS is an integral part of the infrastructure, not only for the military but for many other industries.

    An aerospace technology consultant in Japan who did not want to be named says the August incident may have been "some sort of operational test, perhaps, to make a point."

    Specifically, he says, that would be to demonstrate "a classic case of asymmetrical warfare." In other words, while the United States has invested billions of dollars in the satellite navigation system, the North Koreans can easily disrupt it with a cheap, portable transmitter on the ground.  

    You May Like

    Escalation of Media Crackdown in Turkey Heightens Concerns

    Critics see 'a new dark age' as arrests of journalists, closures of media outlets by Erdogan government mount

    Russia Boasts of Troop Buildup on Flank, Draws Flak

    Russian military moves counter to efforts to de-escalate tensions, State Department says

    Video Iraqis Primed to March on Mosul, Foreign Minister Says

    Iraqi FM Ibrahim al-Jaafari tells VOA the campaign will meet optimistic expectations, even though US officials remain cautious

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora