Military Could Send Chopper to Block Japanese Flybys

Jay Yim, Jan. 25, 2019, 9:22 a.m.

The military is considering sending a helicopter to respond to any further Japanese spy planes buzzing Korean warships. The chopper would block the flight path of any Japanese patrol plane if it came close to a Korean destroyer, as happened on several occasions in the past few weeks.

The idea was mooted by the Joint Chiefs of Staff during a briefing of the ruling Minjoo Party on Thursday.

After a meeting of the National Security Council at Cheong Wa Dae the same day, an official said, "We're very concerned about the repeated threateningly close flybys of Japanese patrol aircraft and decided to respond firmly to prevent a recurrence.”

Navy destroyers and new patrol corvettes are capable of carrying choppers.

"No chopper is a direct match for a patrol plane," a military spokesman said. "But no fast-flying plane would come close to a warship if a chopper was hovering nearby” since the plane cannot swerve fast enough.

The military is also considering sending stronger warning signals to Japanese aircraft. "Warning signals are sent in stages as [Japanese patrol aircraft] come closer and closer ," said Cho Jeong-sik, a Minjoo Party lawmaker who attended the JCS' briefing. "The JCS wants to send signals earlier than it does now."

That means warships could start sending warning signals when a foreign patrol aircraft comes within 10 miles of them instead of just five as at present.

The JCS could also scramble nearby patrol aircraft if Japanese coat-trailing continues.

A JCS officer said, "We are working to come up with more elaborate responses when allies' planes perform a threatening maneuver over our warships."

Meanwhile, the Defense Ministry on Thursday released camcorder and thermal images taken from the Navy destroyer Daejoyoung the previous day showing the latest threatening flyby, as well as the distance from the warship to the plane and its flight altitude as identified on the radar.

The ministry had planned to release video footage, but instead it only published five images, on the principle that it is wiser not to get drawn into a lengthy publicity war with Tokyo.

Japan has not yet responded to the images after denying Wednesday's report about the threatening flyby.

In a press briefing, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga only repeated what was said before. "I've received a report from the Defense Ministry that the Maritime Self-Defense Force's patrol plane flew in a proper way," he said.

Asked if Tokyo plans to reveal information about the latest incident, Suga said, "I understand that defense authorities of the two countries will exchange communication." 

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