South Korea scrambles fighter jets to ward off North Korean drones

South Korea accused the North of flying “several” drones across their shared border on Monday, prompting Seoul’s military to deploy fighter jets and attack helicopters.

“Our military first detected a North Korean unmanned aerial vehicle around the Gimpo airspace at 10:25 am (0125 GMT),” the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said in a statement.

“Several North Korean unmanned aerial vehicles invaded our airspace” in the border areas around Gyeonggi province, it added.

The incursion prompted Seoul to fire warning shots and deploy fighter jets and attack helicopters.

One of the warplanes, a KA-1 light attack aircraft, later crashed in Hoengseong County, Yonhap news agency reported.

The military did not indicate whether the drones had been shot down, or had gone back over the border. But local news agencies reported the warplanes had been trying to shoot down the drones, some of which reached airspace near the capital Seoul.

Flights were temporarily suspended at Gimpo and Incheon international airports — the country’s two major hubs, AFP reported.

The incursion is the first time in five years that North Korean drones have invaded South Korean airspace and comes as Pyongyang has carried out an unprecedented blitz of weapons tests this year, including the launch of its most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile yet.

Last week, Pyongyang also fired two short-range ballistic missiles and claimed to have developed new capabilities to take images from space, saying it would be ready to launch a reconnaissance satellite by April next year.

The North’s drone operations are a growing security concern in Seoul, but Pyongyang has denied any involvement and accused South Korea of fabricating evidence.