In order to counter the growing nuclear threat from North Korea in the Korean Peninsula, the U.S. is expected to deploy an unmanned aircraft system to South Korea, Yonhap News Agency reported Monday, citing a Seoul military official. The attack drone will be deployed to strengthen strike capabilities against ground targets in the North, the official told the South Korean news agency.
The Gray Eagle aircraft will be deployed to a U.S. military base in the southwestern town of Gunsan — about 111 miles south of Seoul, the report said. However, it is still unclear when the system will be installed.
The Gray Eagle is capable of striking military facilities in the north of the Military Demarcation Line separating the two Koreas, the official told Yonhap. The aircraft can operate at an altitude of up to 29,000 feet and can carry four Hellfire air-to-surface missiles. In case a war breaks out, the system is capable of destroying the war command in North Korea, the report noted.
Also on Monday, South Korean air force said that it had begun a week-long drill named “Soaring Eagle” to practice the country’s readiness against any possible threat from its northern neighbor. About 50 air force assets, including F-15K and FA-50 fighters, and 500 personnel from 15 air force units, are part of the exercises, according to Yonhap.
The developments come after North Korea fired four ballistic missiles off its east coast on March 6 despite being barred from doing so under a set of United Nations resolutions. The reclusive country said that the launches were a part of exercises targeting U.S. military bases in Japan. The projectiles were launched from the Dongchang-ri long-range missile site in North Pyongan Province, and they splashed into the Sea of Japan after flying for about 620 miles.
Last week, Kim Jong Un reportedly ordered the Korean People’s Army Strategic Force to remain on high alert in case a war breaks out and “get fully ready to promptly move, take positions and strike so that it can open fire to annihilate the enemies once the Party Central Committee issues an order.”