BBC News / The Korea Herald – 2005-04-10 22:46:21
South Korea Plans Robots ‘To Patrol Border’
BBC News Online
(April 10, 2005) — South Korea’s defence ministry is considering deploying robots armed with guns along its border with North Korea. The robots are designed to strengthen surveillance, ministry spokesman Shin Hyun-don told reporters.
The 4km (2.5 mile) wide Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) separating North and South Korea is already the most heavily fortified border in the world. Hundreds of thousands of troops patrol the frontier, which has been closed since the Korean War ended in 1953. The defence ministry said on Friday that it would complete a feasibility study of the planned system by the end of 2005, and the robots could be in operation as early as 2011.
“If the surveillance system by robots is effective, we may withdraw part of our troops away from the border,” a ministry official told the Associated Press news agency. According to officials quoted in the Korea Times newspaper, the cost of the project could run to $1.9 billion.
South Korea has been anxious to improve security on the border with the North since three holes were discovered in the frontier fence in October.
At first Seoul feared that North Korean agents had infiltrated the South, but officials eventually concluded that the holes had been made by a South Korean civilian defecting to the North.
This is not the first time South Korea has deployed robots to help its defensive capabilities. Two rifle-equipped robots were reportedly deployed with South Korean troops in Iraq.
Seoul Considers Armed Robots along DMZ
Joo Sang-min / Korea Herald
SEOUL (April 10, 2005) — The Defense Ministry plans to deploy robots with combat capability along the heavily fortified inter-Korean border as part of revamped security measures to deter North Korean infiltration.
Other measures include installing electronic warning systems and computerized surveillance cameras, including remotely monitored battlefield sensor systems and closed circuit televisions, along the 253-kilometer border in stages by 2011.
“We are considering ways to properly and actively take advantage of state-of-the-art technologies,” ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. Shin Hyun-don told reporters. “In the mid- and long-term perspective, the ministry will set up the infrastructure for a technology-based security posture instead of a personnel-based system.”
The ministry expects it will cost about 20 billion won to set up 250 robots every 1 kilometer along the border. Hundreds of thousands of combat troops are deployed along the border by both Koreas, which remain technically at war since the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.
The measures were planned at the instruction of Defense Minister Yoon Kwang-ung, who believes the robots can enable troops to focus more on combat training.
Robots with weapons mounted on their frames are each expected to be able to observe from 2 and 1 kilometers during the day and night, respectively, and will have the capability to record voices and take pictures in a 180-degree circle.
“The ministry is considering robots which could detect, trace and hit targets automatically or be controlled remotely by operators,” said Col. Shin Byung-chul of the ministry public affairs office. Required operational capabilities will be determined this year, Shin said.
Yoon said the ability to shoot at targets is a matter which needs to be discussed and worked out very carefully.
South Korean troops deployed in the northern Iraqi city of Irbil used two aegis robots mounted with rifles between November 2004 and February 2005 for surveillance, along with mine-detonating robots.
The United States has deployed Talon robots since 2000 to defuse roadside bombs in Iraq. It has also been converting the robots to carry and use guns under its SWORDS project (Special Weapons Observation Reconnaissance Detection Systems). The robots were tested with larger .50 caliber machine guns as well as rocket and grenade launchers.
The ministry here said it plans to equip its frontline guard posts with automatic alarm and surveillance systems by June 2006. It will also increase thermal detectors, or TOD, aimed at detecting moving objects with thermal characteristics. Elevated outposts, additional searchlights and rewired fences will also be part of short-term security plans.
The envisioned computerized system came about after mysterious holes were cut in three layers of wire fences in southern boundary border fences in October. The ministry said the holes were cut by an unidentified South Korean civilian defecting to the North.
Currently, the border is protected by two-member patrols from guard posts located every 400 meters along the border fences. The teams change their positions about every 90 minutes.
Some of the fences have rocks stuck into gaps, so that if the fence is bumped they will be dislodged and show possible intrusion. But there are no electric fences, nor electronic sensors and surveillance cameras. The ministry will discuss with defense-related research and operational commanders how to develop the new programs and will earmark budget funds for the programs in 2006.
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