U.S. spy plane flies near DMZ after North Korea Congress

Jan. 6 (UPI) — A U.S. Navy spy plane flew over South Korea a day after North Korea‘s Eighth Party Congress, according to an online aviation tracker.

No Callsign, a South Korea-based tracker, tweeted Wednesday screen shots of the real-time flight of the EP-3E Aries II, an electronic warfare and reconnaissance aircraft, according to South Korean network MBN and Yonhap.

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The plane flew over Hongcheon, Gangwon Province, at 12:41 p.m. local time. The plane also flew over Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province, before heading west to the West Sea, according to reports.

The spy plane was previously spotted in South Korean airspace on Dec. 24, flying from the western coast of the peninsula to the West Sea, before returning to base. The EP-3E provides tactical surveillance, strike support and monitors electromagnetic signals emitted before and after any missile launch.

The U.S. military in South Korea said this week there are no signs of a pending provocation, but the situation could change in the coming weeks. North Korea also has not changed its defense posture near the demilitarized zone during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to U.S. Forces Korea Commander Gen. Robert Abrams.

According to South Korean military sources on Wednesday, the spy plane may have been used to monitor the North to detect any changes after its Party Congress on Tuesday, MBN reported.

Other reconnaissance aircraft have been active over the peninsula.

Local news service Seoul Pyongyang News reported Wednesday the U.S. Air Force’s RC-135W Rivet Joint and the U.S. Army’s RC-12X Guardrail aircraft were deployed Wednesday morning. The RC-12X was also on a search mission on Tuesday, the day of North Korea’s Party Congress, according to the report.

North Korea observers have previously raised concerns the regime could attempt a provocation to challenge the incoming administration of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden. The former vice president has tapped Wendy Sherman, a former Iran negotiator under President Barack Obama, as deputy secretary of state, the Washington Post reported Tuesday. Sherman has experience negotiating with Pyongyang.

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