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Suspected North Korean UAV photographed South Korea's THAAD site, says report

13 June 2017

A suspected North Korean unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) took photographs of the deployment site of the US Army's Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea before crashing near the inter-Korean border, a South Korean defence official told reporters.

A suspected North Korean UAV (pictured) took photographs of the deployment site of the THAAD system in South Korea before crashing near the inter-Korean border, according to media reports. (South Korean MND)A suspected North Korean UAV (pictured) took photographs of the deployment site of the THAAD system in South Korea before crashing near the inter-Korean border, according to media reports. (South Korean MND)

The 1.8 m-long UAV, which was equipped with a camera, had been discovered by a local resident a few days earlier in a mountainous area in the South Korean county of Inje, Gangwon Province.

The South Korean military collected it and analysed the contents of the 64-gigabyte memory chip contained in the camera. "It was confirmed that [the UAV] took photos of the THAAD site in Seongju, [North Gyeongsang province]," a South Korean defence official was quoted by the Yonhap News Agency as saying on 13 June.

Among the hundreds of photos found on the chip, more than 10 were taken of the THAAD site; presumably at an altitude of 2-3 km, stated the official.

"The pictures don't have high resolution, though," he was quoted as saying, adding that most of the other images show forest land and residential areas.

A day earlier South Korea's Ministry of National Defense (MND) had said in a statement that the UAV, which has a 2.4 m wingspan, is "similar in size and shape" to a North Korean UAV that crashed in March 2014 on the South Korean-controlled island of Baengnyeong in the Yellow Sea, just south of the Northern Limit Line, the de facto maritime border between North and South.

It is unclear whether the UAV's entry into South Korea was detected by South Korean radar.

The South Korean military has come under criticism for failing to detect the UAV, according to Yonhap.

The media outlet reported that defence officials have spoken in the past about the difficulties involved in spotting such small UAVs with the existing radar system.

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