October 30, 2019 12:10
China has deployed more than a dozen state-of-the-art unmanned planes in the northeastern province of Jilin near North Korea.
The Xianglong (Soar Dragon) strategic unmanned aerial vehicles have a combat radius of 2,000 km, making them capable of reaching Japan as well as the East and West seas.
"China has deployed planes in Jilin, where it has been expanding a UAV base," a military source here said on Tuesday. "Some 10 to 20 of the planes are deployed there."
Google Earth satellite images from early this month of an air base near Shuangliao show nine Xianglongs on a mission or on standby.
Shin Jong-woo at the Korea Defense and Security Forum said China appears to be replacing makeshift hangars there with more permanent structures for the unmanned planes.
The planes are roughly equivalent to the U.S.' Global Hawk high-altitude unmanned surveillance aircraft and can reach an altitude of 18,000 m. It has a flight range of 7,000 km and can fly for 10 hours non-stop, gathering imagery and monitoring military communications.
"The Xianglong doesn't perform as well as the Global Hawk in all respects, gut generally speaking it has similar functions and plays similar roles," the source said. "It can cover the entire Korean Peninsula."
Experts believe that the planes not only perform surveillance missions but carry weapons, sparking fears that the Jilin base will serve as a launch pad for attack drones.
The source complained of double standards. He said while the Chinese have complained bitterly about Korea letting the U.S. deploy a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense battery here because the radar could be used to spy on China's military movements, "they're now looking into every nook and cranny of the Korean Peninsula with advanced surveillance drones."
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