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(4th LD) S. Korea warns N.K. to stop GPS-jamming provocation

All Headlines 22:25 April 01, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS more info in paras 11-12)

SEOUL, April 1 (Yonhap) -- South Korea warned Pyongyang Friday to immediately stop jamming Global Positioning System (GPS) signals, stressing that such actions defy international norms and endanger ordinary people.

"It's a dangerous and reckless act that defies relevant international norms and poses threats to our people's safety. It should be halted immediately," Jeong Yeon-guk, spokesman at Cheong Wa Dae, the presidential office, said in a written statement.

"After carrying out provocations using nuclear (weapons) and missiles the North has now resorted to GPS jamming," the spokesman said.

Earlier in the day, the Ministry of National Defense said North Korea has been conducting radio jamming operations against the South from four North Korean locations, including Haeju, a port city in the country's southwest area, and Mount Kumgang on the east coast.

It said efforts to disrupt GPS have been going on for about a month before the North turned up its jamming signals to full power on Thursday.

The defense ministry issued an alert and ordered countermeasures to be taken to deal with the jamming that could cause mobile phones to malfunction and affect planes and ships that rely on GPS for navigation. The areas affected are near the inter-Korean border regions close to the North.

"North Korea's GPS jamming is a clear provocation that violates the inter-Korean armistice agreement and the regulations of the International Telecommunication Union," the ministry said in a separate statement.

"Despite our warning, if North Korea continues to send GPS-disrupting signals, we will make it pay a due price through close coordination with the international community," it said.

The jamming efforts have not resulted in any mishaps for the South Korean military yet, a ministry official said. The military's GPS equipment has basic counter-jamming systems, according to the official.

"In response to North Korea's sending of GPS jamming signals, the military is moving local fishing boats away from the Northern Limit Line in the East and West seas," another military official said.

The United Nations Command's Military Armistice Commission, which supervises the inter-Korean armistice, also prodded North Korea to halt the GPS jamming earlier in the day, according to the defense ministry.

The message was delivered to the North Korea side through loudspeakers at high volume at the border area, officials said, as all inter-Korean communication lines have been cut off in recent inter-Korean tensions.

Government officials said that Pyongyang is expected to keep sending GPS-jamming signals against South Korea for a while in a bid to raise tensions on the peninsula.

South Korea's ICT ministry said earlier in the day that the disruption affected a number of airplanes and vessels, although there have been no reported accidents.

"There have been no reported problems in the military or limitations to our military capability," Moon Sang-gyun, a ministry spokesman, said in a regular press briefing. "But if the North's GPS jamming results in real damage to airplanes or ships, we will make the North pay a proper price."

Pyongyang is believed to possess more than 10 kinds of GPS-jamming devices, according to a military official. Seoul said that the communist country first conducted GPS jamming operations in 2012.

The U.N. Security Council imposed the toughest sanctions against the North last month over its January nuclear test and long-range rocket launch in February.

The North has also been ratcheting up its threats against South Korea and the United States over their ongoing joint military drills. The North has long denounced them as a rehearsal for a northward invasion, a charge denied by Seoul and Washington.

Moon said that the North's disruptive signals are presumed to be able to reach some 100 kilometers from its transmission points near the heavily fortified inter-Korean border, and could possibly affect Seoul.

There is speculation that a unit under North Korea's Reconnaissance General Bureau might be behind the North's latest move. The North's reconnaissance bureau is tasked with espionage and cyberwarfare operations against South Korea.

The North's "Unit 121," also dubbed the Cyberwarfare Guidance Unit, is known to be in charge of the country's GPS disruption campaigns.

"North Korea's move to jam GPS signals itself is a provocation," Jeong Joon-hee, a spokesman at Seoul's unification ministry, told a regular press briefing. "The North should immediately end such provocative acts."

Jeong declined to comment on the speculation, saying that it is related to military intelligence.

sooyeon@yna.co.kr

pbr@yna.co.kr
(END)

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