(LEAD) S. Korean military apologizes over failure to shoot down N. Korean drones
(ATTM: UPDATES with more details from 3rd para)
SEOUL, Dec. 27 (Yonhap) -- The South Korean military offered a public apology Tuesday for its botched operation to shoot down five North Korean drones that violated the country's air space the previous day. It also vowed to redouble efforts to bolster counter-drone capabilities.
"We feel sorry that although our military detected and tracked the drones, we failed to shoot them down," Lt. Gen. Kang Shin-chul, chief director of operations at the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), said in a statement.
He noted that the military has limits in detecting and striking small surveillance drones, while it is still capable of countering threats from bigger attack drones.
"But in the end, we have caused much public concern due to insufficiency in the military readiness posture," Kang said.
To better cope with drone threats, the military plans to "aggressively" utilize strike assets, institute related regular drills and incorporate platforms capable of shooting down drones without causing any damage to civilians, according to Kang.
Kang also said the military seeks to secure "non-kinetic" strike capabilities, such as laser systems, as well as radar-evading drones to bolster overall anti-drone operational capabilities.
In addition, the military will push for an early establishment of a drone unit to carry out surveillance and reconnaissance operations to monitor key enemy military facilities.
On Monday, five North Korean unmanned aerial vehicles flew across the Military Demarcation Line separating the two Koreas, with one of them having flown all the way to northern parts of Seoul.
Meanwhile, the South's military was put on alert again earlier in the day due to the appearance of unidentified objects, which initially seemed to be North Korean drones, in its northwestern area not far away from the inter-Korean border.
The military scrambled warplanes to the scene, but the objects turned out to be a flock of birds. It did not carry out any initial counter-drone procedures, such as firing warning shots.
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