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

    California Republicans Mull Choices in Presidential Race

    Ted Cruz tells state's Republican Convention delegates campaign will be 'battle on the ground, district by district by district,' ahead of June 7 primary

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, many Kurds are trying to escape turmoil by focusing on success of football team Amedspor

    South African Company Designs Unique Solar Cooker

    Two-man team of solar power technologists introduces Sol4, hot plate that heats up so fast it’s like cooking with gas or electricity

    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.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora