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North Korea likely used drones for spying, South says

This drone, discovered March 24, 2014, near the Demilitarized Zone, may have flown over the South Korean president’s office and residence in Seoul and taken photographs.

SEOUL — Three drones recently found in South Korea almost certainly were being used by North Korea for spying, according to the South Korea Ministry of National Defense.

Defense officials on Friday unveiled the results of an interim investigation of the rudimentary drones, two of which were found in recent weeks.

Evidence that included a “striking similarity” in appearance to models shown in North Korean media footage in 2012 and 2013 led investigators to conclude that they were of North Korean origin.

“These circumstances point unequivocally toward North Korea,” according to an MND statement. “Still, further scientific and technical investigation is necessary for the acquisition of evidence to corroborate this conclusion.”

On March 24, a drone was found in the border city of Paju, while a second was found a week later on the border island of Baenynyeong.

The first drone was found last October on a mountain in Samcheok, in the eastern part of the country, by three residents who were picking medicinal herbs, according to the Yonhap news agency. South Korea’s military announced the discovery of that drone, similar in design to those found in March, on April 6.

In Friday’s statement, the MND said the presumed North Korean drones differ in design, color and operating systems from South Korean drones or unmanned aerial vehicles used by civilians. The drones were built with parts from countries including South Korea, the U.S., Japan, and China.

Six fingerprints not traceable in South Korea’s national database were also found on two of the drones.

South Korea will expand its inquiry to include a “scientific investigation team,” and will work with countries where the drone parts originated.

An MND spokesman said Friday that South Korea would share information about its findings with the U.S., and that Americans would be involved in the remainder of the investigation. He would not release additional details about how the Americans would be involved.

The ability of the drones to penetrate South Korean airspace has raised concerns about South Korea’s air defenses.

The MND said Friday that it plans to increase its defenses in response to the “military threat” posed by the drones, though it did not release details.

“When we finally verify that North Korea was indeed responsible, our military shall demonstrate a firm response against what constituted a serious provocation that violated our airspace,” the statement said.

rowland.ashley@stripes.com
Twitter: @Rowland_Stripes

chang.yookyong@stripes.com
 

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