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'North Korea' drone took photos of U.S. THAAD site before crash

By
Elizabeth Shim
An unmanned aerial vehicle identified as a drone in South Korea was spying on the recently deployed THAAD battery, Seoul military says. File Photo courtesy of Republic of Korea Joint Chief of Staff
An unmanned aerial vehicle identified as a drone in South Korea was spying on the recently deployed THAAD battery, Seoul military says. File Photo courtesy of Republic of Korea Joint Chief of Staff

June 13 (UPI) -- A drone identified as North Korean by South Korea's military last week may have flown more than 160 miles south of the border to capture images of the U.S. THAAD battery in Seongju.

The South Korean military said the drone that crash landed in a remote mountain region last Thursday had taken more than 10 photographs of the THAAD site, a former golf course in central Korea, News 1 reported.

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The military examined the drone, including a 64-gigabyte Sony memory card inside a built-in Nikon D800 DSR camera, after the drone was found in Inje County, Gangwon Province, last week.

The pictures appeared to have been taken after April 26, when the THAAD battery, including two launchers, was deployed at the site.

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The images may have been captured at an altitude between 1 and 2 miles, according to the report.

The drone is similar to an unmanned aerial vehicle that had crashed on a remote South Korean island in March 2014, but it also included a "twin engine," Seoul military said.

Discovery of the drone is raising concerns about North Korea's armed forces.

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South Korean officials say anti-drone defense systems that could shield population centers against drone-related biochemical and bomb attacks are only deployed in core areas of Seoul.

Kim Young-woo, a lawmaker with the center-right Bareun Party, said the drone is proof "South Korea airspace has been punctured," local newspaper Donga Ilbo reported.

"While the defense ministry and the [presidential] Blue House were occupied with omissions in a report and a battle for the truth, North Korea has been looking at the Seongju THAAD site like the palm of one's hand," Kim said Tuesday, referring to a recent controversy. "Meanwhile, four THAAD launchers remain dormant in a warehouse."

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The delayed deployment of the four launchers raised concerns in Washington, and has invited some criticism of South Korean President Moon Jae-in for a decision to conduct a more extensive environmental assessment that could postpone speedier deployment.

Moon is to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump on June 29-30. According to the White House on Tuesday, the two will discuss ways to strengthen the "ironclad" alliance and to coordinate on North Korea-related issues.

North Korea's drones may be of Chinese origin.

Voice of America reported Tuesday an annual report from the United Nations Security Council released in March pointed out Chinese firms have been involved in the production of the drones used by North Korea.

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