SEOUL – South Korea said Tuesday it had recovered an unidentified drone that crashed on one of its border islands the same day that North and South Korea exchanged artillery fire across their disputed maritime boundary.
The wreckage was discovered on Baengnyeong Island, which lies just south of the maritime border, fueling suspicions that it might be North Korean.
“Military authorities retrieved the wreckage for analysis,” a Defense Ministry spokesman said.
He declined to speculate on the drone’s provenance, but the Yonhap news agency said military and intelligence officials suspected the drone came from North Korea.
Yonhap quoted a military source as saying the drone crashed around 4 p.m., less than an hour after North Korea wrapped up a major live-fire drill along the border.
During the exercise, the North fired about 500 rounds of artillery shells, 100 of which fell into South Korean waters.
The South responded by firing 300 shells into the sea on the North Korean side of the border and scrambling fighter jets.
North Korea had displayed a set of what looked like very rudimentary drones during a huge military parade held in Pyongyang last July to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War.
And in March last year, state media reported leader Kim Jong Un overseeing a military drill using “superprecision drone planes.”
Still photographs of the exercise broadcast on state television showed what resembled air force target drones being flown into a mountainside target and exploding.
Yonhap said the shape and size of the drone found on Baengnyeong Island was similar to that recovered last month near the northern city of Paju, close to the land border with the North.
The Paju drone had a triangular wing with a 1.9-meter 6.3-feet) span, the agency quoted a government source as saying.
Its gas-powered engine was made in Japan and other parts were Chinese.
According to the government source, it had a camera that had taken aerial shots of the national highway from Paju to Seoul and the presidential Blue House in the capital.