The South Korean military confirmed on Thursday that a North Korean drone violated a key no-fly zone around the president’s office during a rare incursion last month.
Military tensions on the Korean peninsula soared last year as the North tested sanctions-violating weapons almost every month, including the launch of its most advanced intercontinental ballistic missile.
Then on December 26, Pyongyang sent five drones across the border into South Korean airspace, the first such incident in five years, prompting Seoul to take the planes into the air to respond.
The South Korean military has already apologized for failing to shoot down any of the drones despite a five-hour operation that they blamed on the drones being “too small”.
He has also repeatedly denied reports that drones have infiltrated a key no-fly zone known as P-73, which includes the skies above the South Korean president’s office.
“It’s not true that (a North Korean drone) didn’t fly over Yongsan,” Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman Lee Sung-jung said Thursday, referring to the area where the president’s office and the defense ministry are located.
A military spokesman said the investigation showed that “the trail of a small enemy drone” passed through the northern end of the no-fly zone.
“We are making it clear that there are no security issues with the Yongsan office,” the official said.
The South Korean military said last week that the North “couldn’t get meaningful information” about its drone invasion due to what they called Pyongyang’s low tech.
But a Seoul spy agency told lawmakers Thursday it was “possible” that a North Korean drone photographed the South Korean president’s office, Yun Kun-young, a member of the opposition Democratic Party House of Representatives, told reporters.
“It is alarming that Yongsan, where South Korea’s main checkpoints are located, was infiltrated at the height of tensions between the two Koreas,” Yang Mu-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, told AFP.
He said initial denials would also likely damage public confidence.
South Korea, under President Yoon Suk-yeol, has stepped up joint military exercises with the United States and is discussing with Washington joint planning and exercises involving US nuclear forces.
North Korean Ahn Chang-il told AFP that hawk-yong appeared to have become a “terrifying figure” in Pyongyang.
He said the drone intrusion could have been a test flight in the event of an assassination attempt in the future.