S. Korea launches drone operations command amid N. Korean threats

South Korea launched a joint military command overseeing drone operations Friday, officials said, amid efforts to step up the use of the unmanned assets to respond to evolving military threats from Pyongyang.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) held a ceremony marking the establishment of the Drone Operations Command -- the military's first joint combat command, involving all of its armed services -- in an area around the border city of Pocheon, 51 kilometers northeast of Seoul.

The command will mainly utilize the unmanned assets to carry out defensive and offensive operations and deter various asymmetric threats posed by the enemy, including drones, nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction during a contingency, according to the JCS.

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) Chairman Gen. Kim Seung-kyum (L) presents the flag of the newly established Drone Operations Command to the unit's inaugural commander, Maj. Gen. Lee Bo-hyung, during the command's launch ceremony at an undisclosed area around Pocheon, 51 kilometers northeast of Seoul, on Sept. 1, 2023, in this photo provided by the JCS. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

It is also tasked with conducting surveillance, reconnaissance and strike operations, as well as psychological warfare and electromagnetic warfare at a strategic and operational level.

The command plans to acquire assets that are available by the end of this year to ensure operations can be carried out immediately, the JCS said, noting that it is pushing to quickly deploy various advanced drones through fast-tracking acquisition procedures.

"By deterring various asymmetric provocative threats, such as North Korean drones, and acquiring capabilities and a posture to strongly punish provocations, (the drone operations command) must become a unit that instills fear in the enemy and is trusted by the people," President Yoon Suk Yeol was quoted as saying in a message read on his behalf.

The command's launch came as Seoul has sought to beef up counter-drone measures after North Korea's drone incursions late last year.

Five North Korean drones intruded across the inter-Korean border in December, with one of them having penetrated a no-fly zone close to Seoul's presidential office.

Source: Yonhap News Agency