During its incursion into South Korean airspace in the past month, a North Korean drone reportedly reached the northernmost point of a no-fly zone that encompasses a 3.7-kilometer (2.2-mile) radius around the presidential office in Seoul. South Korean military officials say the zone is in place to protect the presidential compound.
An official from the military provided the following statement to the Yonhap News Agency of South Korea on Thursday: “It [the drone] briefly flew inside the northern perimeter of the zone, but it did not approach near to important security installations,” the official said.
On December 26, five unmanned aerial vehicles belonging to North Korea crossed the border and entered South Korean airspace. This prompted the South Korean military to launch a response consisting of fighter planes and assault helicopters. The drone in question was one of those vehicles. The military was unable to bring the unmanned aircraft down, and they continued to fly above South Korean land for many hours.
However, on Thursday, the Joint Chiefs of Staff of South Korea confirmed that a drone had violated the northern end of the secure area but did not fly directly over the Yongsan area, which is where the office of President Yoon Suk-yeol is located. Previously, the Joint Chiefs of Staff of South Korea had denied that one of the drones had intruded into the no-fly zone surrounding the presidential office.
In a time when North Korea poses a growing threat as it develops its ballistic missile technologies, including test-launching an unprecedented number of missiles last year, the drone incursion has prompted criticism of South Korea’s air defenses. This is because the incursion occurred at a time when North Korea is developing its ballistic missile technologies.
According to Yonhap, “drone invasions have put plain the South’s inadequate capability to detect, track, and shoot down such tiny drones.”
The President of South Korea issued a warning on Wednesday that he would consider canceling an inter-Korean military accord with Pyongyang in 2018 if North Korean drones continued to violate the airspace of South Korea.
Kim Eun-hye, the presidential press secretary, said at a briefing that the president had given instructions to the national security office to consider suspending the legality of the military agreement if North Korea were to perform another provocation by invading South Korean land.
The agreement, which was reached in 2018 and signed on the sidelines of a summit between the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un, and the former president of South Korea, Moon Jae-in, called for an end to “all hostile acts,” the establishment of a no-fly zone around the border, and the removal of landmines and guard posts from within the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).
Yoon’s warning to reject the 2018 accord might imply the restoration of live-fire exercises in the area that used to be the no-fly zone as well as the broadcasting of propaganda over the border. All of these activities provoked heated reactions from Pyongyang before the pact was signed. Yoon has expressed his disapproval with the way the military has handled the drone incident, and he has asked the armed forces of the nation to be prepared to react, even if doing so means “risking escalation.”