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(LEAD) U.S. again sends surveillance planes over S. Korea: aviation tracker

All Headlines 15:11 December 12, 2019

(ATTN: RECASTS title, lead with another spy plane spotted; ADDS more details in paras 4-5)
By Oh Seok-min

SEOUL, Dec. 12 (Yonhap) -- The United States flew surveillance aircraft over the Korean Peninsula, an aviation tracker said Thursday, the latest in a series of near-daily flights to monitor North Korea amid growing concerns Pyongyang could test-fire a long-range missile.

The E-8C aircraft, or JSTARS, was spotted over the Korean Peninsula at 29,000 feet, Aircraft Spots said on its Twitter account without specifying the exact time of the operation. It also did not upload photos showing the flight route.

As a platform for airborne command and control, surveillance and reconnaissance, the E-8C is known to be capable of closely monitoring North Korea's troops and equipment movements, including missiles and artillery guns. It was recently spotted over South Korea, the aviation tracker said Tuesday.

Hours later, the Aircraft Spots said in a separate feed the U.S. RC-135W Rivet Joint flew over the peninsula at 31,000 feet. It also did not elaborate on regions and the time of its operation. It is the fifth time that the electronic intelligence gathering aircraft was detected over South Korea this month alone, according to Aircraft Spots.

Along with the Rivet Joint, the U.S. deployed its key spy asset, the Global Hawk, over the peninsula and a strategic B-52 bomber over the sea near Japan, the Twitter account said Wednesday.

Such flights came amid heightened tensions in the region after Pyongyang conducted a rocket engine test at its Dongchang-ri satellite launching site Saturday, sparking speculation that it may be gearing up to resume testing of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) amid stalled denuclearization talks with the U.S.

North Korea has threatened to seek "a new way" if the U.S. fails to come up with new proposals by the end of this year to move their dialogue forward.

As the North has taken a series of military moves such as successive firings of short-range ballistic missiles and a submarine-launched ballistic missile, the U.S. has deployed several types of surveillance planes over the peninsula more often than before. Sources and experts see those operations, at least in part, as designed to send warning messages against the bellicose regime.

This image captured from the U.S. Air Force's website shows America's E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) aircraft. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

graceoh@yna.co.kr
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