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(LEAD) Suspected N. Korean drone photographed THAAD site: S. Korean military

All Headlines 15:08 June 13, 2017

(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with details from 5th para; ADDS photo)

SEOUL, June 13 (Yonhap) -- A suspected North Korean drone spied on the site of a U.S. missile interceptor system in South Korea, military officials here said Tuesday.

The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) equipped with a Sony-made camera was discovered last week on a mountain in Inje of Gangwon Province near the heavily fortified inter-Korean border by a local resident after it apparently crashed there.

The South's military collected it and analyzed the content of the 64-gigabyte memory chip.

"It was confirmed that (the craft) took photos of the THAAD site in Seongju," a South Korean defense official told reporters.

The left photo, provided by South Korea's military, shows a suspected North Korean drone found on a mountain in Inje, Gangwon Province, on June 9, 2017, and the right one is what was discovered on Baengnyeong Island in 2014. (Yonhap)

The South's Joint Chiefs of Staff earlier said the drone with a 2.4-meter wingspan and a 1.8-meter-long body is believed to have been flown by the North, as it's similar to the North Korean UAVs found in South Korean border regions in 2014.

Among hundreds of photos on the chip, more than 10 were taken on the THAAD site presumably at an altitude of 2-3 km, according to the official.

"The pictures don't have high resolution, though," he said. "Most other photos contain images of forest land and residential areas."

North Korea is believed to be operating more than 300 drones for military purposes, either for surveillance or the delivery of attack weapons.

If the UAV is confirmed to be a North Korean one, it would suggest that the secretive communist nation has significantly improved the range of its drones over the past years.

The distance between the border and the THAAD zone in North Gyeongsang Province is around 270 kilometers.

The photos taken by the drone found in 2014 on Baengnyeong Island in the Yellow Sea indicate that it flew only over regions near the western border between the two Koreas.

The South's military has come under public criticism for again failing to detect the apparent North Korean drone.

Defense authorities said there's a difficulty in spotting such a small drone with the existing radar system.

lcd@yna.co.kr
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