Yoon blasts defense minister for failure to down North drones
President Yoon Suk-yeol rebuked Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup over the South Korean military’s failure to shoot down North Korean drones that entered the South’s airspace, according to a high-ranking official on Wednesday.
Speaking on condition of anonymity to reporters, a high-ranking official in the presidential office said Yoon chastised Lee ahead of a Cabinet meeting held at the presidential office in Yongsan on Tuesday and questioned him as to why the South Korean armed forces failed to intercept the North’s unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) despite similar incursions in the past.
The official said that Yoon expressed disappointment that the country’s armed forces had failed to shoot down the drones despite having placed “great trust” in the military’s capabilities, and berated Lee for “lack of training and lax discipline” in the armed forces.
President Yoon also ordered the military to escalate and respond to drone incursions by sending two or three drones across the border for every one North Korean drone that invades the South’s airspace in the future, according to the official.
The official claimed that the president did not convene the National Security Council during Monday’s drone incursion because he was being updated continuously throughout the day on the military’s response, which included scrambling Air Force fighters, attack helicopters and other aircraft in an effort to intercept the drones. One of the planes deployed, a KA-1 light attack aircraft, crashed in Hoengseong County in Gangwon at 11:39 a.m.
The official told reporters that the president issued the decision to dispatch manned and unmanned assets to the border region and send the South’s own drones into North Korean territory.
According to the official, the president’s impatience with the military’s response waned after he was briefed on the technical difficulties of shooting down the North Korean UAVs, which are believed to have been 1.8 meters (5.9 feet) in length.
Joint Chiefs of Staff Director of Operations Kang Shin-chul apologized on Tuesday for the military’s failure to shoot down the North Korean drones, explaining that the military is limited in its ability to intercept UAVs under three meters in length.
Military officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to reporters described the situation on Monday as akin to “trying to catch flies with cannonballs.”
Democratic Party leader Lee Jae-myung criticized the government’s response to the drone incursion during a Wednesday meeting of the party’s executive committee in Gwangju.
“It appears that President Yoon Suk-yeol is completely unaware of the gravity of the threat to our national security,” Lee said, adding that the episode highlighted incompetence in the administration’s security posture.
The presidential official argued that Pyongyang was likely trying to sow discord by dispatching drones to highlight vulnerabilities in Seoul’s defenses.
“Highlighting our military’s weaknesses is one kind of strategy employed by the North to weaken South Korea through internal conflict,” the official said.
“Even if North Korea can make technological progress through provocative weapons tests, this alone is unlikely to guarantee it a strategic victory,” he said, adding that “fomenting internal conflict in the South gives it greater strategic leeway in the future.”
BY MICHAEL LEE [firstname.lastname@example.org]