News of North Korea's third nuclear weapons test is coupled Tuesday with a much subtler arms escalation — the reported beginnings of drone development in North and South Korea.
Last week news of a possible North Korean drone program broke, and Yonhap news agency reported Monday the South Korean military wants to develop drone helicopters.
"The military is considering using unmanned combat helicopters to destroy North Korea's military bases used for infiltration, including artillery bases and a naval base for air-cushioned vessels," an unnamed military source told Yonhap.
On Dec. 25 last year, Reuters reported the Obama administration had "formally proposed" selling South Korea spy drones for defensive and intelligence-gathering purposes. Seoul had requested the potential purchase of four Northrop Grumman Global Hawks.
North Korea's alleged drone development was reported on Feb. 6 last week.
An unnamed military source told Yonhap that North Korea intended to develop drone technology by purchasing US drones from the Middle East.
“North Korea recently bought several US made MQM-107D Streakers from a Middle Eastern nation that appears to be Syria, and is developing unmanned attack aircraft based on them,” an anonymous source told Yonhap. The MQM-107D Streaker was first designed in the 1970s by Beech Aircraft and is used for testing guided missiles.
The North Korean Foreign Ministry warned on Tuesday that its nuclear test was "only the first action," threatening further belligerence.
"If the US further complicates the situation with continued hostility, we will be left with no choice but to take even stronger second or third rounds of action," the ministry said in a statement.