North Korean forces flew drones across the demilitarized zone into South Korea on Monday, prompting South Korean forces to scramble fighter jets, helicopters and other aircraft to secure their airspace. One of the South Korean aircraft crashed during the commotion.
“This is a clear act of provocation by the North violating our airspace,” Lee Seung-o of the South Korean military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a news briefing on Monday.
South Korean forces detected multiple “unidentified objects,” flying around its northern Gyeonggi Province at around 10:25 a.m. local time, an official at the Joint Chiefs of Staff told the South Korean Yonhap News Agency. The South Korean defense official identified the unidentified objects as suspected North Korean unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
The defense official told Yonhap that South Korean forces had issued radio warnings, fired warning shots and scrambled aircraft to responded to intercept the aircraft and drive them out of South Korean airspace.
Lee said South Korean forces were able to confirm five drones flying into their airspace. One of the drones flew near the South Korean capital, Seoul.
Lee said the South Korean aircraft were ultimately tasked with shooting down the drones. He said South Korean forces fired about 100 shots but failed to down any of the drones.
Among the aircraft South Korean forces scrambled was a KA-1 light attack aircraft. For a still unknown reason, the single-engine turboprop aircraft crashed in Hoengseong County, in an area about 87 miles east of Seoul.
Local news footage showed some of the aircraft’s wreckage in a snow-covered rice paddy next to a roadway.
The KA-1 went down at around 11:39 a.m. Both of the pilots were able to safely escape.
Lee said South Korean forces tracked one of the drones all the way back to North Korea but lost track of the other four.
Lee said South Korean forces also flew reconnaissance aircraft over the North in response to the drone flights.
This drone incident comes after the North has carried out numerous weapons tests that raised alarms in the South this year.
In October, North Korean forces fired hundreds of artillery shells into the waters neighboring its border with the South. In November, North Korean forces fired 23 missiles into those same waters.
This was a breaking news story. The details were periodically updated as more information became available.