By Kim Young-jin
North Korea has greatly increased exercises involving its fighter jets in recent weeks, including sending aircraft close to South Korean airspace, a military source said Wednesday.
“The number of sorties North Korean jet fighters have been making has risen sharply since mid-May,” the source said. “Up to 50 have been made each day and two to three of them have approached close to the tactical action line (TAC).”
The TAC is a conceptual line designated at 20 to 50 kilometers north of the border by the military which uses it to prepare for an early reaction to an infiltration by Pyongyang.
The source said the increase appeared to be part of summer combat inspections but that the military was closely monitoring the situation.
A military source said that one North Korean jet approached the TAC, without specifying which part, and four South Korean fighters were scrambled. Previously, Voice of America reported that one fighter jet flew to 24 kilometers from Ganghwa Island on the west coast Tuesday, prompting eight South Korean fighters to scramble.
North Korean jets, estimated to be able to hit Seoul three to five minutes after liftoff, have crossed the line in the past in apparent saber-rattling maneuvers.
Officials say the North could carry out further provocations against the South to bolster the military credentials of Kim Jong-un, the untested leader who took power following the death of his strongman father Kim Jong-il.
The uptick comes amid heightened peninsular tension following recent threats by the Pyongyang to attack conservative media outlets here in response to what it deemed disparaging coverage of its regime.
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