WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- North Korea on Monday sent drones over South Korea’s airspace for the first time in five years escalating fresh tensions.
- South Korea fired warning shots and scrambled fighter jets across the border with the North.
- South Korea’s attack helicopters fired a combined 100 rounds but it wasn’t immediately reported if the North Korean drones were shot down.
The South Korean military fired warning shots and scrambled aircraft after North Korean drones entered its airspace for the first time in five years on Monday, the Associated Press reported. This comes days after the North test-launched two ballistic missiles.
South Korea’s Defense Ministry said several North Korean drones were detected in its territory after crossing the inter-Korean border on Monday morning, prompting broadcast warnings from the South’s military. South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported the drones were spotted flying in Gimpo, Ganghwa Island and Paju, which led to temporary suspensions of civilian flights.
Warning shots were fired by South Korea before the country launched fighter jets and attack helicopters to shoot down the drones. It was not immediately clear if the drones were shot down or not.
A KA-1 light attack aircraft was also deployed in response, but it crashed in Hoengseong County, about 140 kilometers east of Seoul, at 11:39 a.m., according to the Yonhap News Agency. Both of the pilots escaped safely.
Monday’s move marked the first time North Korean drones entered South Korean airspace since 2017, when a drone believed to belong to the North was found crashed in South Korea. South Korean military officials said at the time that the drone photographed a U.S. missile defense system in South Korea.
North Korea has bragged about its hefty drone program, and South Korean officials confirmed the country does have around 300 drones.
In 2014, several suspected North Korean drones were found south of the border, posing a potential security threat even though experts said they were “low-tech.
Last Friday, North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles toward its eastern waters in protest of South Korean-U.S. joint air drills. The country recently said it views the drills as an “invasion rehearsal.”
In 2022, North Korea has conducted an “unprecedented number” of missile tests in what experts believe is an attempt to improve weapons and pressure rivals in future negotiations.
In recent weeks, the North also claimed to have performed major tests needed to acquire its first spy satellite and a more mobile intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the U.S. mainland.