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Pyongyang’s drone took 551 photographs

It took 19 images of the Thaad site before crashing in Gangwon
June 22,2017
이미지뷰
Defense Ministry spokesman Moon Sang-gyun speaks before reporters during a press briefing at the ministry on Wednesday, announcing the outcome of an investigation into a North Korean drone found on June 8 on a mountain in Inje, Gangwon. [YONHAP]
A North Korean drone found earlier this month took off from Kumgang County across the border on May 2 and flew for about five and a half hours before it crashed on a mountain from engine failure, the South Korean military said on Wednesday.

“We have confirmed that the drone indeed belonged to North Korea following an analysis of its trajectory,” said Moon Sang-gyun, the Defense Ministry spokesman. “Our analysis tells us that its departure and intended destination points lie in the North.”

According to the military, the drone flew across the military demarcation line on the eastern part of the peninsula on May 2 and down to Seongju County in North Gyeongsang, where the U.S.-operated Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) antimissile system is set up. The drone took pictures of the site with a Sony camera with a 35mm lens attached.

The drone flew approximately 490 kilometers (304.4 miles) before its crash in Inje, Gangwon, with an average speed of 90 kilometers per hour at an altitude of 2.4 kilometers.

The military said the unmanned drone took a total of 551 in-flight photos, 19 of which were of the Thaad site. There were four other photos taken on the ground in North Korea before the takeoff, according to the military.

The drone was found on June 8 by a local who reported it to the military the following day.

The military estimated that the drone took its first photo at 3:19 p.m. on May 2 on its way toward the Seongju site. At 3:22 p.m., it took its first photo of the Thaad site. The drone stayed above the site until 3:27 p.m., taking 19 photos before flying northward. At 5:46 p.m., it took its last photo before crashing.

The military said the timing of the photos was estimated by taking into account the locations of the drone and angle of the Sun at the time. The exact timing could not be known because the camera was initialized, or formatted, when it was found.

Calling the drone’s dispatch a blatant violation of the 1953 armistice treaty and the 1992 non-aggression pact, the South Korean military condemned the North for “provocative penetration,” also saying, “We once again urge the North to stop all forms of provocation.”

The military added, “If the North continues, we will retaliate.”

North Korea is believed to possess 300 drones of at least seven different types, according to Joseph S. Bermudez, Jr., a North Korea defense and intelligence expert. Bermudez wrote on 38 North, a think tank tracking North Korean activities, that the regime’s drones have “expanded both in numbers and capabilities” over the past decade.

Some devices are imported from a Chinese aviation technology company, perhaps through a front company in Hong Kong, Bermudez said.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]