South Korea’s president on Tuesday called for stronger air defenses and high-tech stealth drones while the military apologized for failing to shoot down North Korean drones that crossed the border for the first time in five years.

South Korea’s military scrambled warplanes and attack helicopters on Monday, but they failed to bring down any of the North Korean drones that flew back home or disappeared from South Korean radars. It raised serious questions about South Korea’s air defense network at a time when tensions remain high over North Korea’s torrid run of missile tests this year.

On Tuesday, the military again launched fighter jets and attack helicopters after spotting suspicious flight paths at a front-line area. A local county office sent emergency text messages notifying residents of a new batch of North Korean drones. But the military later said it was a flock of birds.

“We have a plan to create a military drone unit tasked with monitoring key military facilities in North Korea. But we’ll advance the establishment of the drone unit as soon as possible because of yesterday’s incident,” President Yoon Suk Yeol said during a regular Cabinet Council meeting. “We’ll also introduce state-of-the art stealth drones and bolster our surveillance capability.”

He said that South Korea’s military needs more intensive readiness and exercises to cope with threats posed by North Korean drones.


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