North Korean 'drone' recovered in South after exchange of artillery fire

North Korea fired missiles into disputed waters Monday, raising tensions on the peninsular. The discovery of a suspected North Korean drone points to increased surveillance in the area. 

Hong Hae-in/Yonhap/AP
South Korean navy warships patrol around Daecheong island near the West Sea border with North Korea, Tuesday, April 1, 2014. North Korea fired missiles into disputed waters Monday, raising tensions on the peninsular.

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Following an exchange of live fire early Monday with North Korea along its disputed maritime border with South Korea, Seoul says it found an unmanned drone that crashed into an island near the border. If confirmed to be a North Korean drone, the discovery could exacerbate already stressed relations on the peninsula.

"The temperature is rising at present on the Korean Peninsula, and this worries us," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei. China is the North’s main supporter. "We hope that all sides can remain calm and exercise restraint."

In recent days, North Korea has taken steps to raise military tensions on the Korean Peninsula. It said Sunday it would carry out a “new form” of nuclear test, something observers suspect could mean testing a nuclear device small enough to be carried by ballistic missiles, according to The New York Times.

On Monday the North fired 500 shells into the Yellow Sea, with about 100 crossing into the disputed maritime border with South Korea. Seoul fired back its own barrage: a defense spokesman told CNN, “We are not shooting at North Korea, just shooting into the sea."

The shelling was the first to take place since South Korea’s Joint Chief of Staff approved “new rules of engagement that call for an immediate strike against a North Korean attack,” reports South Korean Yonhap News Agency. Previous protocol “prevented the South Korean military from retaliating unless there [was] an absolute need.”

The discovery of a crashed drone on the South Korean island of Baengnyeong has Seoul looking into the North’s espionage operations, reports Reuters. 

South Korea's defense ministry believes North Korea has deployed drones along its southern border in the past, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The North has displayed drone-like aerial vehicles during its military parades and in March last year its state media reported dictator Kim Jong Un guided a drill of “super precision drones.”

South Korea has been eager to bolster its own capabilities to spy on North Korea with reconnaissance drones. In March, Seoul confirmed an $817 million military procurement deal to secure Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles from Northrop Grumman Corp.

The US and South Korea are currently participating in joint military exercises, which are slated to end on April 18. Bruce Bechtol, a Korea expert and professor at Angelo State University in Texas told USA Today that North Korea’s firing into South Korean territory “was really aimed at [US] policymakers, Republic of Korea policymakers, and Japan.”

The official Korean Central News Agency that North Korea's actions Monday were necessary self-defense moves taken “to cope with the grave situation created by the US’s hostile policy,” reports USA Today.

North Korea "is fully ready for next-stage steps which the enemy can hardly imagine in case the US considers them as a 'provocation' again," the statement read. "It would not rule out a new form of nuclear test for bolstering up its nuclear deterrence. The US had better ponder over this and stop acting rashly."

As a separate NewYork Times article notes, “after trading fire,” the Koreas “trad[ed] insults” this week. South Korean President Park Geun-hye made a speech last week, promising a host of measures including increased aid and investment in the North in return for giving up its nuclear program. The so-called "Dresden Declaration" wasn't well-received in the North.

Today, according to The New York Times:

[T]he state-controlled North Korean newspaper Rodong Sinmun scoffed at Ms. Park’s speech, calling the unmarried South Korean leader an “eccentric old spinster” and “a frog in a well.” It said her overture was “full of deception” and “filth” and was aimed at destroying the North Korean government.

South Korea immediately responded, condemning North Korea for using “expressions even street ruffians would refrain from.”

“North Korea must realize that by the way it is behaving, it will attain nothing and will only deepen its isolation,” the government in Seoul said in a statement.

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