The South Korean military has fired warning shots and scrambled planes after North Korean drones invaded its airspace for the first time in five years on Monday, the Associated Press reported. This comes days after the North tested two ballistic missiles.
South Korea’s defense ministry said several North Korean drones were spotted on its territory after crossing the inter-Korean border Monday morning, prompting warnings from the South Korean military. South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported that the drones were spotted in Gimpo, Ganghwa Island and Paju, prompting temporary suspensions of civilian flights.
Warning shots were fired from South Korea before the country launched fighter jets and helicopter gunships to shoot down the drones. It wasn’t immediately clear if the drones were shot down or not.
A KA-1 light attack aircraft was also used in the response, but it crashed at 11:39 a.m. in Hoengseong County, about 140 kilometers east of Seoul, according to Yonhap News Agency. Both pilots escaped safely.
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Monday’s move marked the first time North Korean drones entered South Korean airspace since 2017, when a drone believed to belong to the North was found crashed in South Korea. South Korean military said at the time the drone photographed a US missile defense system in South Korea.
North Korea has boasted about its extensive drone program, and South Korean officials confirmed the country has around 300 drones.
In 2014, several suspected North Korean drones were found south of the border posing a potential security threat, although experts said they were “low-tech”.
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Last Friday, North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles at its eastern waters in protest at joint air exercises between South Korea and the United States. The country recently said it viewed the drills as an “invasion rehearsal.”
In 2022, North Korea conducted an “unprecedented number” of missile tests in what experts say is an attempt to upgrade weapons and pressure rivals in future negotiations.
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In recent weeks, the North also claimed to have conducted major tests needed to acquire its first spy satellite and a more mobile ICBM capable of reaching the US mainland.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.