September 20, 2019 13:43
The Joint Chiefs of Staff on Thursday admitted to an opposition lawmaker that the ability of the military's drones along the frontlines to identify targets in North Korea had dropped 44 percent due to an expanded no-fly zone agreed last year by President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Before the agreement, frontline Army corps' drones were able to observe 713 targets in the North, but now they can only see 399. In some frontline areas, the military's ability to identify North Korean targets has declined 84 percent. The drones can spot targets 15-20 km away, so once the no-fly zone was set at 10 to 15 km along the demilitarized zone, it drastically reduced their usefulness. That means most of them will be unable to detect North Korean long-range artillery attacks.
Shortly after the cross-border military agreement, the Defense Ministry said the gap can be filled by using manned reconnaissance aircraft and U.S. reconnaissance assets. But manned reconnaissance aircraft already missed 10 percent of existing targets, and U.S. reconnaissance planes also suffered a four-percentage point drop in their ability to identify enemy targets. That is because the area of reconnaissance has been pushed back to the rear lines due to the expanded no-fly zone, or 20-40 km. If reconnaissance planes must climb to higher altitudes to get a better view from further behind the DMZ, clouds can block the view or the resolution of spy cameras becomes too low. North Korea has currently deployed most of its 1 million troops and artillery and other firepower south of Pyongyang, and around 340 artillery pieces are pointed at Seoul. But the North does not have the same sophisticated reconnaissance equipment the South has, so there has been only one clear winner from the cross-border military agreement.
Meanwhile North Korea conducted 10 tests of new missiles this year alone, two of them launched near the border. Kim said they were "warnings to South Korea" and there is no doubt that he meant it. Yet the Defense Ministry, as if responsible for defending the North, claims that Pyongyang "did not violate a single agreement." A North Korean version of the Russian Iskander-type missile is difficult to intercept, making it crucial to identify them first. The assistant U.S. secretary for East Asia and Pacific affairs said Wednesday that North Korea still appears to be producing nuclear weapons. And just at this crucial juncture, the government wants to scrap an intelligence-sharing agreement with Japan. The basic principle of controlling defense costs is to decrease the number of offensive weapons while boosting reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities. Will the Moon Jae-in administration take the blame if its failure to observe this basic principle leads to catastrophe?
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