South Korea’s Yoon slams response to North drones

39

Vows to create drone unit

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol said on Tuesday he would advance the creation of a military unit specialising in drones, criticising the military response to a border intrusion by North Korean drones.

Five North Korean drones crossed into South Korea on Monday, prompting Seoul to scramble fighter jets and attack helicopters, and try to shoot them down, in the first such intrusion since 2017.

The incident rekindled questions about South Korea’s air defences at a time when it is trying to rein in the North’s evolving nuclear and missile threats.

The military fired warning shots and some 100 rounds from a helicopter equipped with a machine gun, but failed to bring down any of the drones while they flew over several South Korean cities, including the capital, Seoul, for about five hours.

“The incident showed a substantial lack of our military’s preparedness and training for the past several years, and clearly confirmed the need for more intense readiness and training,” Yoon told a cabinet meeting.

Yoon blamed the lack of preparedness on his predecessor’s “dangerous” North Korea policy, which relied on Pyongyang’s “good intentions” and a 2018 inter-Korean military pact banning hostile activities in the border areas.

“We have been planning to establish a drone unit to monitor and reconnoitre major North Korean military facilities, and will now expedite the plan as much as possible,” he added, vowing to boost its surveillance and reconnaissance capability with cutting-edge stealthy drones.

The military apologised for its failure to shoot down the drones, which it said were too small to easily intercept, measuring about 3 metres (118 inches).

The military also said it could not aggressively attack them because of concerns over civilian safety, and pledged to improve anti-drone capabilities including strike assets, jamming and radar technology and regular air defence drills.—Agencies