By Hyonhee Shin
SEOUL, Dec 26 (Reuters) – Five North Korean drones crossed into South Korea on Monday and South Korea responded with attack planes and helicopters and opening fire to try to shoot down the North Korean aircraft, the Korean military said. from the south.
As part of its response, the South Korean military has also sent surveillance planes to the North to photograph its military installations, a South Korean military official said.
“This is a clear provocative act by the North that violates our airspace,” Lee Seung-o, a South Korean official on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a briefing.
One of the five North Korean drones flew near the South Korean capital Seoul, and the others flew near the west coast.
Lee said the South Korean military “operated assets to shoot down” the drones.
He did not say whether any drones had been shot down, but the Yonhap news agency later said the South Korean military fired around 100 shots but failed to down any. Lee said South Korea initially fired “warning shots” when he first detected the drones.
One of the drones was known to have returned to North Korea, while South Korea lost track of the other four, Yonhap reported, citing the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
North Korea does not have a channel for South Korean media inquiries and its state media did not mention any drones.
South Korean reconnaissance planes flew north to take action photos corresponding to North Korean drone flights, Lee said, suggesting North Korean drones were also intended for reconnaissance.
South Korea tracked the drones crossing from North Korea over the so-called Military Demarcation Line between the two countries after spotting them in the skies over the western city of Gimpo at around 10:25 a.m. local time (0125 GMT), the South had previously said. army.
The drones are the first confirmed to have come from the isolated neighbor since 2017, when a North Korean drone believed to be on a spy mission crashed and was found on a mountain near the border. In 2014, a North Korean drone was discovered on an island bordering South Korea.
MISSILE TESTS AND MILITARY EXERCISES
Lee said the North Korean drones on Monday were small, about two meters, but he did not elaborate, including what equipment they carried, if any.
Relations between North Korea and US ally South Korea have been bad for decades, but have recently grown even more tense after a new conservative government took power in Seoul and Pyongyang continues its nuclear programs. and missiles.
South Korean and US forces have responded to a record number of North Korean missile tests this year with intensified military exercises. North Korea views such exercises as preparations for an invasion.
These have been met with further North Korean tests and exercises, including rare sorties by fighter jets near the border.
South Korea’s transportation ministry previously said flights out of its Incheon and Gimpo airports were suspended following a request by the military. The suspension began at 0408 GMT in Gimpo and 0422 GMT in Incheon and lasted for about an hour before departures resumed, a ministry official told Reuters.
While trying to counter the drones, a South Korean KA-1 light attack plane crashed shortly after takeoff from its base in Wonju in the east of the country, a defense ministry official said. Its two pilots managed to escape before the crash and are in the hospital.
(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Additional reporting by Joyce Lee; Editing in Spanish by Manuel Farías)