South Korea’s military said Tuesday it regrets that it could not shoot down five unmanned North Korean aircraft that crossed into South Korean airspace.
The aircraft, called drones, were small flying surveillance vehicles. They were not armed.
South Korean leaders in Seoul said they would work to prevent future violations of their country’s airspace.
One of the North Korean drones made it as far as the northern part of Seoul before turning around. South Korean officials said they lost track of the other four drones.
South Korean military leaders on Tuesday said their air defense system can follow larger drones, such as those carrying weapons. They said the surveillance drones were less than three meters long. The military said it fired and missed 100 times in its attempts to bring down the drones.
The failure to track and shoot down the drones shows how effective small, unmanned vehicles can be. Drones have been used in the war between Russia and Ukraine this year.
South Korean military leaders on Tuesday said they would answer the border crossing by starting a special drone group. The special group would be trained to follow and bring down future unmanned flying vehicles.
South Korean president Yoon Suk Yeol called his country’s readiness “greatly lacking.” He said plans were already in place to start a South Korean drone group that could fly into North Korea to observe the country’s military buildings. Those plans will now move faster, Yoon said.
North Korea has not discussed the incident.
South Korea’s military said its lack of preparedness had “caused a lot of concern for people.”
Shim Yeonmi, a 32-year-old runs a café in the Ganghwa close to the border with North Korea. She said she was glad the drones did not carry weapons.
“But I still feel uncomfortable with the fact they are taking pictures and that we don’t know where they are now,” she told VOA.
South Korean citizens and media had many reports of people seeing drones. Military officials, however, said many of those reports were incorrect.
It is not clear what North Korea was trying to do with the drone flights. It is the first time the country sent drones to the south in more than five years.
Dean Pinkston is an international relations professor for Troy University. He works in Seoul. He said the drones were likely sent to take pictures ahead of a North Korean political meeting this week.
Pinkston is a former member of the U.S. Air Force. He said South Korea’s plan to develop a drone group is a good idea, but it will take time and money.
Pinkston said the drone fighting between Russia and Ukraine is making nations around the world pay more attention to the unmanned flying devices.
“It’s something everyone is…trying to adapt (to),” he said.
I’m Faith Pirlo.
William Gallo and Lee Juhyun wrote this story for VOA. Dan Friedell adapted it for Learning English.
Words in This Story
surveillance –n. the act of carefully watching someone or something
violation –n. the act of doing something that is not permitted such as going into an area without permission
uncomfortable –adj. to feel pain or to not feel at ease because of worry or doubt
adapt –v. to change to meet new conditions
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