North Korea scrambles fighters to intercept alleged US spy plane

The cockpit of a Lockheed U-2 observation aircraft. NASA/Stu Broce

North Korea has accused a United States Air Force aircraft of entering its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), prompting the Korean People’s Army Air and Anti-Air Force (KPAAF) to scramble fighter jets in response.

The incident, which occurred on August 17, 2023, has been labeled a “dangerous military provocation” by Pyongyang according to a statement released by the official North Korean news agency KCNA.

Allegedly, an unspecified USAF observation aircraft entered the airspace above North Korea’s EEZ on three separate occasions between 5:38 a.m. and 6:37 a.m. local time.

While the aircraft did not violate North Korean airspace – which is defined as airspace over sovereign territory – it appears to have ventured into the country’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ).

An ADIZ is a unilaterally declared region of international airspace that serves as a buffer zone before sovereign airspace. Its primary purpose is to facilitate the swift identification and monitoring of all aircraft entering this designated space.

The General Staff Department of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) told the state news agency that it was considering “deterrent measures to prevent future incursions.” The US Department of Defense did not react to the report.

On July 10, 2023, North Korea’s military had already issued a statement denouncing “provocative” flights of a US spy aircraft for eight consecutive days.

“The US will surely have to pay a dear price for its provocative air espionage,” the statement then read.

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