South Korean officials say the jamming of communications affecting civilian flights is coming from the North.
Martin Streetly, an IHS Jane’s expert on electronic warfare, told Fox News: “North Korea certainly has the capability to jam GPS signals and is believed to have been doing so since at least 2010.”
So far, no flights have experienced difficulties because of the jamming, but the South Korean Transport Department said in a statement that 241 flights by their planes and foreign airlines have been affected since last weekend.
Pilots and airlines have been warned about the jamming, which is heaviest around Seoul’s main Incheon airport.
It is believed North Korea has obtained the jamming devices from Russian companies and that the devices are effective for about 150 miles if mounted on a structure such as a television transmission antenna.
And they can be effective, as coalition flight crews found out during the Iraq war.
“Russian-sourced jammers were encountered during the opening stages of Operation 'Iraqi Freedom', where they were credited with causing a number of GPS-guided munitions to miss their intended targets during the first 10 days of the campaign,” said Streetly.
The real question is: Why is North Korea doing it now?
Is this the start of more dangerous provocations by North Korean as its young and inexperienced new leader Kim Jong-un tries to bolster his military credentials, particularly after the embarrassing missile test failure last month?
North Korea has been issuing its usual threats recently aimed mostly at the South Korean government.
The strangest warnings, those that are of the greatest concern, came late last month when the North Korean military made specific threats to the government and newspapers and TV stations.
North Korea’s military command issued a statement warning of destroying them in minutes.
“The special actions of our revolutionary armed forces will start soon to meet the reckless challenge of the group of traitors…. They will reduce all the rat-like groups and the bases for provocations to ashes in three or four minutes, in much shorter time, by unprecedented peculiar means and methods of our own style.”
The last time North Korea attempted to jam GPS systems in South Korea was back in 2010, and the defense minister at the time warned that if Pyongyang managed to deploy a jamming device capable of disrupting guided weapons such as missiles, it would pose a threat to the country’s security.
With it being estimated that North Korea has thousands of missiles trained on Seoul just 50 miles south of the border between the two Koreas, then it is understandable any jamming that could disrupt missile defenses would raise serious concerns in South Korea.
North Korea has a long history of provocative acts to try to get the attention of the U.S. and the world.
It has worked in the past, but not recently. Washington got wise to Pyongyang’s attempts at brinkmanship in exchange for aid.
But the problem isn’t likely to go away anytime soon, and with the Obama administration pledging to focus more on Asia, it is likely to be North Korea particularly, as the latest reports suggest, that is preparing for a third nuclear test.