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U.S. flies spy plane over Korean Peninsula to monitor N. Korea

North Korea 15:47 April 22, 2020

SEOUL, April 22 (Yonhap) -- A U.S. surveillance aircraft flew over South Korea, an aviation tracker said Wednesday, the latest in a series of near-daily flights to monitor North Korea amid speculation about leader Kim Jong-un's health condition.

The U.S. Air Force's RC-135W Rivet Joint was spotted in skies above Seoul and the surrounding Gyeonggi Province, Aircraft Spots tweeted without specifying the exact time of the operation.

This type of aircraft was last spotted on Monday, which was followed by surveillance operations by the air force's E-8C and navy's P-3C, according to the tracker.

The United States has allowed several types of spy planes to be detected here more often than before in recent months as Pyongyang has moved to beef up its defense capabilities amid stalled denuclearization talks with Washington.

North Korea's last such maneuver took place on April 14, when it fired what appeared to be cruise missiles and air-to-ground missiles from fighter jets into the East Sea on the eve of the birthday anniversary of late national founder Kim Il-sung.

What has made headlines regarding the regime recently is the health of leader Kim Jong-un, since he missed an annual event marking a national holiday. Kim last appeared publicly on April 11 when he presided over a meeting of the Politburo of the ruling Workers' Party.

But the South Korean government dismissed speculation that the leader may be seriously ill and said no unusual signs have been found inside the North. A source here said Kim was staying in the eastern coastal city of Wonsan.

Experts say the United States' deployment of its reconnaissance aircraft is part of regular operations, but it might have let some of them be spotted "intentionally" to send a message of pressure to the North.

An increase in surveillance activity could also suggest unusual moves may be under way in the communist nation, such as preparations for missile launches.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (R) inspects a pursuit assault plane group under the Air and Anti-Aircraft Division in the western area in this file photo released on April 12, 2020, by the North's official Korean Central News Agency. South Korean officials said on April 21 that they have seen no unusual signs with regard to Kim's health after CNN reported that he is "in grave danger after a surgery." (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)


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