N. Korea may struggle to shoot US bombers


HONG KONGIt’s been almost half a century since North Korea shot down a US military aircraft. These days its generals might find it even tougher.

North Korea’s top diplomat on Monday called US President Donald Trump’s warnings to Pyongyang a declaration of war, and said his country would be within its rights to shoot down US warplanes in international airspace. Two days earlier, the US had sent fighter jets and bombers the farthest north of the demilitarised zone that any had flown off North Korea’s coast this century.

The US decided to publicise the show of force because North Korea’s radars failed to spot the aircraft, Yonhap News reported, citing Lee Cheol-woo, the head of the intelligence committee of South Korea’s Parliament.

Kim Jong Un’s military could hit US fighters either with its warplanes or surface-to-air missiles. In 1969, North Korean MiG jet fighters shot down an unarmed US EC-121 reconnaissance plane over the Sea of Japan, about 90 miles (145km) off its coast.

Either option poses problems, according to Park Daekwang, a research fellow who studies North Korea’s air force capabilities at the Korea Institute for Defence Analyses. One major obstacle is the inability of North Korea’s fighter jets to refuel in mid air, he said.

“It’s not easy to go beyond its airspace and shoot down the enemy’s plane without having such an in-air fuel provision system, and I don’t think the North has that yet,” Park said. — Bloomberg

Dayang Norazhar

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