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U.S. flies surveillance aircraft to monitor N. Korea

All News 09:22 February 19, 2020

SEOUL, Feb. 19 (Yonhap) -- A U.S. surveillance aircraft has flown over South Korea on an apparent mission to monitor North Korea, an aviation tracker said Wednesday.

The U.S. Air Force's E-8C, or JSTARS, was spotted in the skies over South Korea at 29,000 feet the previous day, Aircraft Spots tweeted.

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 is the third time this month alone that this type of aircraft has been detected here, with several other types of U.S. spy planes flying here more often than before with their identification system turned on.

Amid stalled nuclear talks with the United States, North Korea warned early this year it will show off a "new strategic weapon" in the near future. Concerns have risen that Pyongyang could choose joint military exercises between the U.S. and the South set for March as a pretext for provocations.

The North has long bristled at such drills, denouncing them as an invasion rehearsal.

So far, however, the North has not shown any specific unusual military movements in recent weeks. The country is also believed to have staged its wintertime drills in a scaled-back manner due to concerns over the outbreak of the new coronavirus, according to military sources in Seoul.

Pyongyang has claimed that it has not a single confirmed or suspected case of the virus, COVID-19. In China, which shares a border with the North, more than 2,000 have died, and nearly 74,000 have been confirmed infected as of early Wednesday. South Korea has reported 31 confirmed cases so far.

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


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