North Korean drones have been equipped with biological and chemical weapons for 20 years
Former North Korean third secretary stationed in Vietnam testifies
North Korea has 300 to 400 attack drones
Capable of reaching Seoul air pace in one hour
North Korean launched one ballistic missile from the vicinity of Kusong, North Pyongan Province on May 14, posing a new level of threat. It has been revealed that preparations have been underway at an Air Force airfield located in the city to mount biological and chemical weapons on drones for aerial attacks for the past 20 years. Jin-myeong Han (alias), 42-year old former North Korean third secretary stationed in Vietnam, who was involved in management and operation of those drones at the same airfield disclosed the status of the development of North Korean drones to the Sekai Nippo.
Interviewed by Isami Ueda
Q: How did you come to get involved in drones when you were with the Air Force?
A: Because my father worked at the political administration office, I was assigned to the military before going to the university (Kim Il-sung University). Many children of the party leaders went through a similar career course. I was assigned to the Banghyeon airfield located in Kusong, North Pyongan Province where I worked on radio communication for attack drones. The drone which crashed in South Korea in 2014 was a reconnaissance drone and an attack drone is 7 to 8 meters long and larger than a reconnaissance drone. It was showcased during a past military parade.
Around 1995, North Korea’s Air Force, Ministry of People’s Armed Forces and Defense University competed to develop drones. Initially, drones were navigated with human visual control but GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) system was utilized for navigation. Back then, miniaturization of engines was a challenge but that challenge must have been overcome by now.
Q: How many attack drones does North Korea possess?
A: South Korean sources are saying that North Korea has about 1000 drones, but my guess is that it has 300 to 400 drones. Because the United States’ reconnaissance satellites and others are intensively conducting surveillance near the Demilitarized Zone, drones are stored underground. According to what I heard from information sources in 2012, drones are brought south to South Pyongan Province for deployment.
Q: Are they currently deployed for battles?
A: Attack drones often move around and repair crews need to accompany them. So they are not in battle deployment status in a strict sense. Nevertheless, they are in the stage of battle deployment in term of technology. In an emergency situation, drones can reach Seoul airspace in about one hour.
Q: What is the nature of threat to South Korea from North Korean drones?
A: When I was working at the airfield, I was surprised to see that people from the Korean Worker’s Party came and mounted something which appeared to be biological and chemical weapons on the drones. They conducted an experiment to spray chemical or biological agents over the mountains and fields nearby. I went to the mountain afterward to check and found all animals dead although plants survived. The information about the specific type of agents was kept secret. Currently, a 1200 liter tank is mounted on the drone and it can carry biological and chemical weapons in the tank.
South Korean military may have built a system to prevent drones’ invasion with electronic jamming. However, drones which approach at low altitude cannot be detected with radars. THAAD was deployed in South Korea for anti-ballistic missile defense, but THAAD alone cannot guarantee safety. It is not an overstatement that North Korea is the IS (Islamic State) in North East Asia.
Jin-myeong Han: Born in Pyongyang, North Korea. After graduating from Pyongyang Foreign Language Academy, went on to and graduated from Kim Il-sung University French Language Department. After entering North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, worked in Ju-che Ideology External Propaganda Bureau. Started working at North Korean Embassy in Vietnam in 2013. Defected to South Korea in 2015. Worked at South Korea’s National Security strategy Institute.