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(LEAD) Defense minister apologizes over failure to shoot down N. Korean drones

All News 17:22 December 28, 2022

(ATTM: UPDATES with minister's remarks in paras 6-8)

SEOUL, Dec. 28 (Yonhap) -- Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup apologized during a parliamentary session Wednesday over a botched military operation to shoot down five North Korean drones that violated South Korea's air space earlier this week.

The North's drone infiltrations on Monday have raised questions over the South Korean military's readiness against potential drone-based provocations and led it to craft defense measures, including a plan to stage counter-drone drills on Thursday.

"I would like to say that I am sorry to the citizens about the result of the operation conducted in response to the North's drone provocation," Lee said during a session of the National Assembly's national defense committee.

Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup speaks during a parliamentary session at the National Assembly in Seoul on Dec. 28, 2022. (Yonhap)

Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup speaks during a parliamentary session at the National Assembly in Seoul on Dec. 28, 2022. (Yonhap)

Lee rejected media speculation that one of the five drones could have flown all the way to Seoul's central district of Yongsan, where the office of President Yoon Suk Yeol is located.

"I am sure that it did not fly to Yongsan," he said. "We can confirm it through detection devices."

He sought to assuage public concerns over the possibility of North Korean drone attacks, stressing the military's defense network is "sufficient" to deal with armed drones.

He said the North's drones seen in the South this week were too small for any armament and that a drone should measure at least 5 meters to be able to carry weapons.

Lee also explained a plan to establish a new drone unit capable of conducting "all-domain, multipurpose" operations that go beyond the operational limits of an existing unit attached to the Ground Operations Command.

The South's Joint Chiefs of Staff briefed the committee on a series of measures to counter threats stemming from North Korean drones.

Among them was a plan to hold the joint anti-drone drills, involving various armed services, on Thursday. It is part of efforts to conduct "realistic" training in consideration of the North's potential provocation scenarios involving small drones, according to the JCS.

The JCS outlined other measures, including optimizing existing military resources to counter threats from hostile drones, establishing an "optimized" operational plan to handle those threats and extending the range of detection devices such as a low-altitude radar system.


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