Mattis delivers warning on North Korea crisis; Drone spied on THAAD installation

by WorldTribune Staff, June 13, 2017

North Korea’s ongoing pursuit of weapons of mass destruction is a “clear and present danger to all,” U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said.

Because of the fast pace of its development of those weapons, the Kim Jong-Un regime represents the most urgent threat to peace and security in the world, Mattis told a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee on June 12.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis speaks at House Armed Services Committee hearing June 12. / VOA News

“The regime’s provocative actions, manifestly illegal under international law, have not abated despite United Nations’ censure and sanctions,” Mattis said.

Pyongyang’s provocations continued on June 13, according to South Korean officials who reported that a suspected North Korean drone spied on the site of a U.S. THAAD missile interceptor system in South Korea, Yonhap reported.

A senior U.S. State Department official echoed Mattis’ remarks during a visit to Tokyo on June 13, according to Japan’s Kyodo news agency.

Thomas Shannon, undersecretary of state for political affairs, told reporters after meeting with Shotaro Yachi, head of the secretariat of Japan’s National Security Council, that North Korea’s nuclear and missile pursuits will make it a “global threat” over time.

Shannon said the U.S. and Japan also reaffirmed the important role China can play in international efforts to convince Pyongyang the weapons programs “do not create any hopeful path to the future.”

The Pentagon has requested a more than $50 billion increase in defense funding this year, upping the total to $639 billion.

“I need bipartisan support for this budget request. In the past, by failing to pass a budget on time or eliminate the threat of sequestration, Congress sidelined itself from its active constitutional oversight role,” Mattis said in his opening statement before the House Armed Services Committee. “It has blocked new programs, prevented service growth, stalled industry initiative, and placed troops at greater risk.”

Meanwhile, South Korea’s military said a North Korean drone equipped with a Sony-made camera was discovered last week on a mountain in Inje of Gangwon Province near the heavily fortified inter-Korean border. It was discovered by a local resident after it apparently crashed there, the military said.

The South’s military said it collected the drone and analyzed the content of the 64-gigabyte memory chip.

“It was confirmed that (the craft) took photos of the THAAD site in Seongju,” a South Korean defense official told reporters.

Among hundreds of photos on the chip, more than 10 were taken of the THAAD site presumably at an altitude of 2-3 kilometers.

“The pictures don’t have high resolution, though,” a military official said, according to Yonhap’s report. “Most other photos contain images of forest land and residential areas.”

The distance between the border and the THAAD zone in North Gyeongsang Province is around 270 kilometers (167 miles).

North Korea is believed to be operating more than 300 drones for military purposes, either for surveillance or the delivery of attack weapons.

South Korean defense authorities said it is difficult to spot small drones with Seoul’s existing radar system.

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