By Alex Jensen
North Korea’s drone activity at the western border with South Korea has “increased sharply” amid heightened tensions between the two sides, according to a Seoul official Tuesday.
Pyongyang has repeatedly threatened to strike its southern neighbor since being hit with strengthened United Nations sanctions this year – in response to the North’s fourth ever nuclear test in January and ensuing rocket launch in February.
South Korea and its military ally the United States have in turn been conducting their largest armed forces exercises to date, further angering North Korea.
Rudimentary drones suspected to have been flown by the North have been found on South Korean soil in the past, but Seoul is apparently wary of an increasing airborne threat -- a North Korean drone also came under fire after crossing the border in January.
“There is a brisk pace of take-off and landing exercises involving various types of small and bigger-than-medium-size unmanned aerial vehicles,” the official was quoted as saying by local news agency Yonhap Tuesday.
“These drones may possibly cross over to our side of the demarcation line unexpectedly to confuse our military's combat readiness.”
The possibility of North Korea trying to distract the South is being taken seriously, but so is the need to defend against drones in themselves.
A defense ministry spokesperson additionally told reporters that Seoul is bolstering its ability to detect and shoot down unmanned aerial vehicles.
Meanwhile, as Pyongyang has defied the UN by continuing to test ballistic missiles and boasting of its nuclear warhead technology, South Korean President Park Geun-hye is to discuss the North with major regional players this week.
Seoul’s presidential office revealed Tuesday that Park will hold summits with the respective leaders of the U.S., Japan and China on Thursday and Friday alongside the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington D.C.