The US military is moving to permanently deploy an attack drone system at an air base in South Korea, which could target North Korean military installations.
The US Forces Korea announced Monday that a Gray Eagle Unmanned Aerial Systems will be stationed at Kunsan air base south of Seoul.
"The US Army, after coordination with the Republic of Korea Armed Forces and the US Air Force, has begun the process to permanently station a Gray Eagle Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) company at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea," it said in a statement.
The deployment is part of a broader plan to reinforce each Army division in South Korea with one Gray Eagle company.
“The [unmanned aerial system] adds significant intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability to US Forces Korea and our [South Korean] partners,” said Christopher Bush, a USFK spokesman.
An unnamed South Korean military official told the Yonhap news agency that the drone would bolster the South's capabilities to strike ground targets in neighboring North Korea.
“In case of a war on the Korean Peninsula, the unmanned aircraft could infiltrate into the skies of North Korea and make a precision strike on the war command and other major military facilities,” the official was quoted as saying.
The Gray Eagle, which is an advanced version of the Predator, is capable of carrying four Hellfire air-to-surface missiles, which can be used for precision strikes.
Last Monday, the US also announced the deployment of an anti-missile system in South Korea.
The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system is equipped with a powerful detection system known as an X band radar.
Regional powers Russia and China have both strongly criticized the deployment of the US missile system to South Korea.
Experts say the missile system would destabilize regional security and upset the region’s current military balance.
Washington accelerated the deployment after North Korea said its latest missile tests were practice for attacking US military bases in Japan.
The US has about 28,500 troops in South Korea, which remains technically at war with the North after the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice instead of a peace treaty.