SEOUL, Oct. 21 (UPI) -- South Korea's Defense Ministry confirmed that it has thermal images of North Korea's provocative shelling in August, when tensions escalated at the border.
During a parliamentary audit, a Defense Ministry official told lawmakers in Seoul the military has Thermal On Demand video footage of North Korean artillery provocations, South Korean outlet Newsis reported.
In August, Seoul's military had released TOD images of the landmine explosions that critically injured two South Korean soldiers, but had said they had no footage of North Korea shelling. On Wednesday, the Defense Ministry retracted that claim.
Opposition party lawmaker Shin Kyoung-min said the Defense Ministry is to release the footage after consulting with the United Nations Command in Korea, and the ministry has said it would bring in soldiers to provide testimony in order to alleviate any doubts of the shelling incident.
The ministry official said the U.N. Command, using its counter-battery radar ARTHUR-K, is looking into whether the first shot fired from the North was a 14.5 mm anti-aircraft shell. So far there is evidence other equipment was used during the period of heightened tensions in August, according to the official.
In August, South Korea said Pyongyang had fired an anti-aircraft shell on Aug. 20, which was followed by multiple shells. Seoul shot artillery rounds in retaliation, escalating tensions at the border.
With regard to North Korea's development of submarine-launched ballistic missiles, the Defense Ministry said the process should take four to five years, but if North Korea "gives all its power" to the program, Pyongyang could develop a SLBM in two to three years. No evidence exists, however, that North Korea has fully developed a method to miniaturize nuclear weapons, the ministry official said, nor is there proof the intercontinental ballistic missile on display during Pyongyang's Oct. 10 parade cost a reported $1.8 billion; the actual cost may have been one-fifth of that amount.
North Korea's provocations are a topic of ongoing discussion among the military officials in South Korea, the United States and Japan. Yonhap reported officers from the three countries are to convene in Tokyo Oct. 22-23 to discuss security issues and to clarify the role of Japan's Self-Defense Forces in the event of a North Korea provocation.
Japan and South Korea have been at odds over the role of Tokyo's SDF. On Tuesday, Japanese Defense Minister Gen Nakatani had said South Korea's sovereignty ends at the demilitarized zone, suggesting Japan could enter the Korean peninsula without Seoul's permission.
The statement has rattled the South Korean public, and on Tuesday the U.S. special representative for North Korea policy said Japan would not be allowed to deploy its Self-Defense Forces without South Korea's consent.