China raises concerns over DPRK projectile 'near miss'
Updated: 2014-03-07 07:23
By Li Xiaokun (China Daily)
DPRK launches coastal artillery during a training session in this March 2013 file photo. [Photo/icpress.cn]
The Chinese passenger plane that reportedly flew through the trajectory of a projectile that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea had launched several minutes earlier on Tuesday "did not find anything special" during its flight, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.
"We will check with the relevant parties and express our concerns," the ministry's spokesman Qin Gang said at a daily briefing.
Officials of the Republic of Korea said the China Southern Airlines aircraft, which was carrying 202 passengers, was heading from Tokyo to Shenyang, Liaoning province, on Tuesday.
ROK Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said the plane was traveling at an altitude of 10 km, while the projectile's peak altitude was 20 km. He said the flight passed through the area about five minutes after the projectile hit the water.
"On a safety level, this is a serious issue of concern," Kim said. "The failure to protect the safety of civilians by issuing an advanced navigational warning according to international norms is a serious threat."
Qin said China attaches great importance to the safety of its civilian airliners.
He said relevant countries should ensure the safety of civil aviation equipment and ships in corresponding areas during military training and exercises.
An unidentified army spokesman from the DPRK said in a statement from Wednesday night that rocket drills conducted from Feb 21 until Tuesday were part of regular training.
He said that neither regional security nor international navigation were in danger because the DPRK took "scrupulous advance security measures for flight orbit and targets in the designated waters".
"This is quite a serious case" if information about the narrowly escaped collision proves real, said Zhang Liangui, an expert on Korean studies at the Party School of the Communist Party of China Central Committee. "It is fortunate that this time our plane was not hit by the projectile.
"Such launches without any pre-warnings from the DPRK have posed huge dangers to normal navigation. China has to take effective measures to prevent it from happening again."
He noted that Qin made the response "in a mild way", while at the same time clearly expressing China's concern over the issue.
"Beijing expects to settle the problem in the best way and avoid adding to the tensions on the Korean Peninsula," Zhang said.
Qin also urged the concerned parties on Thursday to "maintain restraint and caution" and do more to help ease regional tensions, "not in the opposite way".
Pyongyang's suspected artillery launch on Tuesday and others that included Scud missiles in previous days coincided with an annual joint US-ROK military drill, which Pyongyang has protested as provocative.
"Despite the recent firings and launches, outside analysts say the North is taking a softer stance toward the US-South Korean military drills this year than last year because it wants better ties with the outside world to revive its struggling economy," the Associated Press said on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the United States has asked the UN Security Council to protest against the DPRK's launches, saying it has broken UN resolutions, which require Pyongyang to abandon its ballistic missile programs.
AP contributed to this story.