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An image from Korea Central Television (KCTV) emerged this week that appears to contradict North Korea’s claims that the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) found in South Korea are not of North Korean origin.
The image, a screenshot from a KCTV report in March 24 last year, appears to show North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the presence of the model of UAV that bears the same color and decal pattern as the drone that crash landed in Paju, North of Seoul on March 24, 2014.
The KCTV footage showed Kim inspecting the Korea People’s Army (KPA) Unit 1501 which operates out of the December 7 factory on the banks of the Taedong-gang in Pyongyang. The unit is known to develop, amongst other things, combat and technical equipment.
The Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) also covered the inspection which said that Kim was being briefed on and shown the operational value of a range of equipment.
The KCNA report quoted Kim as being pleased “that the latest combat and technical equipment developed by the unit ensured very high mobility in combat circumstances and they became intellectual and lighter.”
Joseph Bermudez, chief analytics officer and co-founder at AllSource Analysis, recently published a detailed investigation into the December 7 factory on 38 North and confirmed to NK News that Unit 1501 is capable of building such a drone.
“Unit 1501 is responsible for manufacturing a number of specialized military systems, as well as civilian goods,” Bermudez said.
John G. Grisafi, a military and defence analyst, also confirmed that the unit has a reputation for manufacturing a range of military equipment.
“Unit 1501 is known to build military equipment including naval vessels and armored personnel carriers”, military analyst Grisafi told NK News.
“Taking into account the photo and the known history of Unit 1501, they likely manufactured the UAVs and South Korea is now confident enough with the evidence they have to say that the crashed UAVs are definitely North Korean,” Grisafi said.
Both Bermudez and Grisafi however said that it is unlikely that Unit 1501 is responsible for operating the drones themselves, with this probably tasked to the KPA’s primary intelligence organization, the Reconnaissance General Bureau.
“As best we can determine at the present time drone operations fall within the operational control of the Reconnaissance General Bureau,” Bermudez told NK News.
DENIAL AND PROBE REQUEST
In a statement issued on the Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) on Monday, North Korea’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea (CPRK) denied that there was any link between North Korea and the drones found in South Korea in March.
“The enemy forces are further stepping up their slander and smear campaigns by fabricating the ridiculous drone incident,” the CPRK said.
The statement also made comparisons between the drone claims and the sinking of the South Korean naval vessel the Cheonan in 2010, which claimed the lives of 46 South Korean sailors.
North Korea was blamed for the Cheonan incident following an international probe by investigators from South Korea, the U.S., Sweden, Canada, Australia and Britain, a charge it has always denied.
“It brought to the fore its brutal mind with its fabrication of the Second ‘Cheonan’ incident by linking the drone case to us even when it said it had yet to find any critical evidence,” the statement said.
On Tuesday the North Korean National Defence Commission, one of the most powerful bodies in North Korea, proposed a joint probe with South Korea to investigate both the origins of the drones and to reinvestigate the Cheonan sinking, which has since been rebuffed by South Korea.
The Blue House issued a statement saying “North Korea is a suspect in the case .. They aren’t qualified (to investigate).”
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