Mystery drone crashed on South Korean island belongs to North Korea

A South Korean military inquiry into a drone found on a border island has concluded that North Korea flew the unmanned aircraft to conduct reconnaissance missions, a South Korean media report said on Wednesday.

Drone landed on Baeknyeong island when North Korea, South Korea exchanged fire

An unmanned drone crashed on Baengnyeong Island, South Korea, near the West Sea border with North Korea, when the two Koreas fired hundreds of artillery shells into each other's waters. South Korea suspects that the drone that crashed on the frontline South Korean island was flown by rival North Korea, an official said Wednesday. (South Korea Defence Ministry/The Associated Press)

A South Korean military inquiry into a drone found on a border island has concluded that North Korea flew the unmanned aircraft to conduct reconnaissance missions, a South Korean media report said on Wednesday.

The discovery of the surveillance aircraft came less than an hour after a three-hour artillery barrage between South and North Korea in each side's territorial waters near a disputed maritime border on Monday.

South Korea's defence ministry declined to comment on the report as its probe was under way.

North Korea fired more than 100 artillery rounds into South Korean waters as part of a drill on Monday, prompting the South to fire back. The exercise appeared to be more sabre-rattling by Pyongyang rather than the start of a military standoff.

Yonhap News Agency reported on Wednesday that the drone's flight route appeared to be from the North, citing unidentified South Korean government officials.

2nd drone investigated

South Korean military officials said they were also investigating a similar drone found in a border city late last month.

A defence ministry official told a briefing that North Korean-style writing was inscribed on the battery of that drone and its flight route was set up to return north. But it had not yet concluded that the drone was sent by North Korea as investigations proceeded.

Images of Monday's crashed drone showed the wreckage of a small, light-blue aircraft bearing similar paintwork and markings to North Korean drones displayed in a Pyongyang parade last year.

Those drones were larger aircraft modified to crash into pre-determined targets, but are not believed to be capable of air strikes or long-range surveillance flights.

North Korea's state media said last year its leader Kim Jong-un had supervised a drill of "super-precision" drone attacks on a simulated South Korean target.

Experts said the crashed drone was an old, poorly-designed model. Although the North has one of the world's largest standing armies, much of its equipment consists of antiquated Soviet-era designs.

"It is like a toy. But for surveillance purposes, it doesn't have to be a high-tech, top-notch military product like Predators or Global Hawk drones," said Kim Hyoung-joong, a cyber defence professor at Korea University in Seoul.

"This type of toy-like equipment can find a blind spot."