North Korean jamming of GPS shows critical system’s weakness

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U.S. and South Korean military commanders will be on the lookout for North Korean efforts to jam GPS signals as they take part in exercises on the divided peninsula this week and next.

North Korea repeatedly has jammed GPS signals in South Korea, which has “very serious implications” because U.S. and South Korean military system rely on the navigation system, said Bruce Bennett, a North Korea scholar for the California think tank Rand Corp.

The jamming also underscores the vulnerability of a satellite-based tool on which civilian systems from car navigation to air traffic control rely upon.

North Koreans have used Russian-made, truck-mounted jamming gear near the border to disrupt low-power GPS signals in large swaths of South Korea. By broadcasting powerful radio signals on the same frequencies as the satellites, the jammers drown out the GPS signals.

Mr. Bennett said the jamming has occurred three times in the past two years and has coincided with joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises.The timing strongly suggests the jamming was “an experiment … a test … to let [the North Koreans] see what effect it would have and maybe disrupt the exercises,” he said.

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