North Korean drone breached South Korean presidential no-fly zone, officials say

A North Korean drone had penetrated into a no-fly zone surrounding South Korea’s presidential office in central Seoul during the breach last week, said the country’s military, sparking concerns about the air defence.

“It [the drone] briefly flew into the northern edge of the zone, but it did not come close to key security facilities,” a military official was quoted as saying by Yonhap News Agency.

It was a part of five North Korean drones that had breached the border on 26 December, prompting South Korea’s military to scramble fighter jets and helicopters.

While earlier, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCC) had denied the breach into president Yoon Suk-yeol’s office, they confirmed on Thursday that it had entered the northern end of the 2.2-mile-long no-fly zone.

The military has faced backlash for failing to bring down the drones.

A JCS spokesperson said there was a change in its analysis after an inspection of the military’s readiness posture over the latest intrusion.

The JCS said the North’s unmanned aircraft did not fly directly over the Yongsan area, where the president’s office is located.

Yoo Sang-bum, a member of the parliamentary intelligence committee, said the possibility of the drone taking photos of the presidential compound, which also houses the JCS headquarters, could not be ruled out, citing intelligence officials.

The border crossing has sparked criticism over South Korea’s air defences at a time when the North has increased its nuclear and missile threats.

Earlier on Wednesday, the country’s president had warned he would consider suspending the 2018 inter-Korean military pact with the North if its drones violated the borders again.

“He instructed the national security office to consider suspending the validity of the military agreement if North Korea stages another provocation invading our territory,” presidential press secretary Kim Eun-hye had told a press briefing, reported Al Jazeera.

North Korea has about 500 unmanned aerial vehicles of 20 different types, most of which measure about 1-6 metres, but which also include a small amount of self-destruct attacker devices, Mr Yoo said.

“A movement of developing medium- and large-sized drones for long-distance reconnaissance has been detected but it appears to be at an early stage, and securing technologies such as high-performance detection sensors would be key,” he said after a briefing by the spy agency.