N. Korea warns it could shoot down US craft that cross into its airspace

Posted on : 2023-07-11 16:24 KST Modified on : 2023-07-11 16:24 KST
A statement by North Korea’s Ministry of Defense recalled past instances in which North Korea had downed US aircraft that had entered its airspace
Joint air drills by the US and South Korean militaries. (courtesy of the ROK Ministry of Defense)
Joint air drills by the US and South Korean militaries. (courtesy of the ROK Ministry of Defense)

North Korea’s Ministry of National Defense claimed that an American spy plane had penetrated dozens of kilometers inside its airspace on multiple occasions, warning that there’s “no guarantee” that one of those planes won’t be shot down off Korea’s eastern coast.

The remarks appeared in a statement by the spokesperson of North Korea’s Defense Ministry that was published by the state-run Korean Central News Agency on Monday. North Korea said that this year the US has been “hell-bent on provocative information-gathering” that involves “letting high altitude strategic reconnaissance planes and drones fly north near the Military Demarcation Line.”

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff rebutted the claims, which it said were false.

North Korea described the US’ actions as “a clear threat to [its] sovereignty” and “a grave provocation” that could plunge the region into an irrevocable catastrophe, adding that the situation has neared a “critical point” that should cause the US concern.

“The US needs to recall [once] again the tragic fate of its spy plane EC-121 in 1969 and its reconnaissance helicopter which intruded into [. . .] our side along the Military Demarcation Line in 1994 and what dangerous situation its RC-135 was placed in March 2003,” the North Korean spokesperson added.

By mentioning previous instances when it had shot down US aircraft for allegedly violating its territorial airspace, North Korea was basically asserting that its threats are not empty words.

On April 15, 1969, a US Navy EC-121 early warning and control aircraft had taken off from Naval Air Facility Atsugi and was flying over the East Sea (also called the Sea of Japan) when it was attacked by two North Korean MiG-21 jet fighters. The American aircraft crashed into waters 167 km away from Chongjin, killing all 31 crewmembers.

The US and North Korea later disputed whether the EC-121 had actually trespassed in North Korean airspace. The downing of the aircraft remains one of the best-known military clashes between North Korea and the US during the Cold War.

On Dec. 17, 1994, an OH-58 helicopter with US Forces Korea was shot down by North Korean antiaircraft weapons after it crossed the Military Demarcation Line due to pilot error.

North Korea and the US initiated negotiations after the plane was shot down, and US Rep. Bill Richardson, who happened to be visiting North Korea at the time, returned to South Korea via Panmunjom with the surviving pilot and the remains of the other pilot, who died in the crash.

“The US airborne surveillance and reconnaissance assets’ flights around the Korean Peninsula constitute ordinary reconnaissance activities, and North Korea’s claim that its airspace has been violated is untrue,” said Lee Seong-jun, head of public affairs for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in the daily press briefing Monday.

“We soberly urge North Korea to immediately desist from behavior aimed at raising tensions through false claims,” Lee said.

By Lee Je-hun, senior staff writer; Kwon Hyuk-chul, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

button that move to original korean article (클릭시 원문으로 이동하는 버튼)

Related stories

Most viewed articles