The United States reportedly flew a reconnaissance plane over South Korea on Monday, marking the second intelligence-gathering flyover this week, according to an aviation tracker cited by several South Korean news sources.
The aircraft — thought to be an RC-135W — was first reported on Twitter flying west to east across South Korea at an altitude of around 31,000 feet at approximately 8:26 a.m. The spy plane was spotted by Aircraft Spots, an account that monitors military aircraft movements.
The same account reportedly identified a U.S. Air Force U-2S plane flying over Seoul on December 1, while South Korean media reported similar recent flights by U-2S, EP-3C, E8C and RC-135V jets. The United States’ most recent reconnaissance flight took place just days after North Korea launched its 13th projectile this year — “a super large multiple rocket launcher” — on Nov. 28.
On Dec. 3, Aircraft Spots also sent out two tweets reporting a U.S. E-8C reconnaissance aircraft as well as an RC-135U flying over South Korea.
“Monitoring like this is routine, and we can assume that the U.S. military is surveilling North Korea at all times,” C. Harrison Kim, a North Korea expert and professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, told VOA. “But at the same time, the recent missile launches from North Korea are seen as a provocation and so, given the situation, the U.S. has to respond on some level.”
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has given an end-of-year deadline for further nuclear talks between Washington and Pyongyang.
“The United States has to do some form of [military surveillance] to do its part as a military power in East Asia,” C. Harrison Kim said. “But I think the bigger situation at hand is that North Korea is sending a message to the world that it is ready to negotiate, and wants a concrete step forward with the United States.”