Is Seoul Vulnerable to a Drone Attack?

  • By Cho Yi-jun, Yang Seung-sik

    September 17, 2019 10:15

    The devastating drone attack on a Saudi oil field by Yemeni rebels has raised concerns that vital South Korean installations could be similarly vulnerable to attack drones from North Korea.

    Some pundits believe North Korea has steadily improved its drone capabilities since leader Kim Jong-un took power, although so far only a few crashed unmanned aerial vehicles used for surveillance were found here.

    But at recent military parades, the North has unveiled ostensibly self-destructing UAVs and, once armed, could potentially aim them at Cheong Wa Dae, Army headquarters and other key military installations.

    A self-destructing unmanned aerial vehicle is displayed at a military parade to celebrate North Korean regime founder Kim Il-sung's 100th birthday in April 2012, in this grab from [North] Korean Central Television.

    One unarmed North Korean drone that crashed in Paju in 2014, for example, had been taking aerial photographs of Cheong Wa Dae, causing a stir at the time.

    The military said back then that the drone was incapable of carrying a bomb weighing 3-4 kilograms, but the technology is believed to have improved.

    U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday claimed his country was "locked and loaded" to strike the perpetrators of the Saudi attack. Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen have claimed responsibility, but the U.S. claims Iran itself was behind the operation.

    "Saudi Arabia oil supply was attacked," Trump tweeted. "There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification, but are waiting to hear from the Kingdom [of Saudi Arabia] as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!"

    But now that his belligerent National Security Adviser John Bolton has been fired, Trump said he does not want a war with Iran. "We're prepared more than anybody... But with all of that being said, we'd certainly like to avoid it."

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