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

Polls Open in Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, 'No' voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve, 'Yes' vote not worth the risk More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

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.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid