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(LEAD) U.S. flies spy planes over peninsula amid N.K. party congress: aviation tracker

Defense 22:01 January 06, 2021

(ATTN: UPDATES headline, lead; ADDS more info in paras 2-3; ADDS photo)

SEOUL, Jan. 6 (Yonhap) -- Two U.S. reconnaissance planes flew over South Korea on Wednesday, an aviation tracker said, on an apparent mission to monitor North Korea as Pyongyang kicked off its rare party congress.

The U-2S Dragon Lady surveillance aircraft was spotted in the skies near the coastal town of Taean, South Chungcheong Province, at around 9 a.m. according to the tracker, No callsign.

It is rare for a U-2S plane to fly with its location identification device turned on. The reconnaissance aircraft monitors, videotapes and sometimes wiretaps North Korea's military activities from an altitude of around 25 kilometers on a flight mission that could last up to eight hours.

This image, captured from No callsign's Twitter post, shows the U-2S surveillance aircraft and its flight route over South Korea on Jan. 6, 2021. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Later in the afternoon, the U.S. Navy's EP-3E was also seen flying over Hwaseong, south of Seoul, and Hongcheon, 100 km east of the capital.

The flights came as North Korea's ruling Workers' Party started its first congress in nearly five years in Pyongyang on Tuesday.

The congress draws keen attention from the outside world that the North could unveil its new policy line on the U.S. at the gathering amid stalled denuclearization talks.

Speculation persists that the North could undertake provocations or hold a military parade timed for the party congress expected to last for days.

U.S. Forces Korea Commander Gen. Robert Abrams said Tuesday there hasn't been any signs of a major provocation as of now.

This image, captured from No callsign's Twitter post, shows the U.S. EP-3E's flight route over South Korea on Jan. 6, 2021. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

scaaet@yna.co.kr
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