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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on April 7)

All News 07:11 April 07, 2016

Counter-jamming NK

: Provocative GPS interference needs response in kind

North Korea has been interfering with our global positioning system (GPS) for days now.

So far, some aircraft and fishing vessels have been affected because Pyongyang is shifting its target areas but its influence reaches far south of Seoul and large swaths of the East and West Seas. It is said that the North keeps the jamming at low intensities. Now, the damage is limited to nonfatal inconveniences because the vessels have to switch to using their compass or aircraft must turn off their GPS and use other navigational systems.

Experts, however, don't rule out the possibility that small airplanes which rely only on GPS might stray into North Korean airspace. The government quickly dismissed such a possibility because pilots of these planes can also navigate without the aid of instrumentation. It's a naïve response. This jamming interference should be reported to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a U.N. body, to determine how it can endanger flights.

The North's jamming should be taken seriously on two counts. First, it is no less a provocative act as firing big guns at residents and garrison troops on Yeongpyeong Island or torpedoing the ROK Navy frigate Cheonan, both North Korean attacks that caused significant casualties.

As prompted after the Cheonan attack, more forceful rules of engagement have been reaffirmed by President Park Geun-hye, allowing the military to react in kind or make a response that causes much stronger damage to the North. This type of "eye for eye, tooth for tooth" is called for, considering the North appears to be sending out feelers to check out the ROK-U.S. readiness for conflict as the toughest-ever U.N sanctions for its nuclear and missile tests are starting to bite. The U.N. Security Council should also be kept informed about the latest developments.

Therefore, the lack of response could give the North the wrong idea, encouraging it to mount more provocations or delay a move back to the negotiating table. Thus far, the military says that it is keeping an eye on the North, at the risk of being criticized for not having sufficient counterattack plans and failing to evolve its contingency strategy, although the latest jamming provocations are the fourth by the North since the first such provocation in 2010. We want to give the military the benefit of the doubt because it may not want to disclose all information regarding capabilities and counter-plans and hope that the military enhances its readiness.

Reports have it that protective measures against the North's jamming are limited due to legal constraints. Now is the time to consider which of these barriers should be removed in order to provide adequate protection. There are, however, military measures available to let the North know that it can't get away with this. One is jamming its air defense systems by employing Wild Weasels or EA Intruders aircraft equipped with equipment to jam surface-to-air missile radar and, if necessary, destroy them with missiles. Of course, it requires careful judgment not to overdo this.

On a broader scale, the military should try to understand the ulterior purpose of the North's jamming provocations and fathom the true depth of its electronic warfare capabilities. The modern tools of war rely heavily on electronics so it is only natural to make an accurate estimate about its capabilities. However it may sound like a plot of a Hollywood movie, disturbing news is that the North may be developing electro-magnetic pulse weapons to neutralize the enemy's warfare capabilities at an initial stage of war.

As with any life-or-death matter, the military should fully prepare itself for the latest North Korean challenge under the worst-case scenarios ― amplifying the intensity of interference many times or using this tactic as a prelude to a bigger provocation. We don't want to find out later how high a price we should pay for our lack of military readiness, do we?


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