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South Korea says North Korean drone entered no-fly zone over presidential office

A suspected North Korean drone at the Defense Ministry in Seoul, South Korea, in 2017. (File photo by Yonhap)

South Korea says a North Korean drone intruded into the no-fly zone over the presidential office in the capital, Seoul, last month.

On Thursday, South Korea's military said that a North Korean drone had entered the no-fly zone over the presidential office in Seoul during a rare incursion last month. It had previously denied the incident.

"It briefly flew into the northern edge of the zone, but it did not come close to key security facilities," South Korea's Yonhap News Agency quoted an unnamed military official as saying, referring to the security area called "P-73."

Later in the day, another military official told reporters that an object, presumed to be an enemy drone, had appeared to fly through a part of the "northern tip" of the P-73 zone.

"But I would like to clarify that there was no problem regarding the security of the presidential office in Yongsan," the official stressed, ruling out the possibility that the drone might have taken photos of the office and other security facilities nearby, like the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) headquarters.

"Given the distance, altitude, and the enemy's capabilities, we believe it was not able to take photos at that time," he added.

The South's military had previously denied media reports that a drone had managed to infiltrate the P-73, dismissing the reports as "untrue and groundless."

The said drone was among the five unmanned aerial vehicles that Seoul claimed the North had sent across the Military Demarcation Line separating the two Koreas on December 26. The purported incursion at the time prompted the South's military to scramble a number of jets and attack helicopters and fire warning shots to repel the aerial intruders.

It also triggered criticism in South Korea of the country's air defenses and prompted President Yoon Suk-yeol to chide the military, particularly its failure to shoot or bring down the drones while they flew over the South for hours.

Such an incident last occurred in 2017.

The South's military plans to carry out more air defense drills, including live-fire ones under a scenario of small enemy drone infiltrations on Thursday afternoon, Yonhap reported, citing officials.

On Wednesday, President Yoon threatened to pull out of a 2018 non-hostility pact signed with Pyongyang over purported drone incursions if North Korea was to violate the South's airspace again.

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