North Korea missile tests deemed serious threat after ‘near miss’ with Chinese passenger plane
South Korea says its northern neighbour failed to provide any advance notice of its activities
North Korea has been accused of posing a “serious threat” by conducting a missile test at almost the precise moment a Chinese passenger plane flew past.
The China Southern Airlines plane was carrying 202 people when it passed through the area off the east coast of North Korea, around five minutes after the missile came down in nearby waters.
According to the South Korean defence ministry, officials in North Korea had failed to notify any international aviation authorities about its planned launch.
In doing so, South Korea said, Pyongyang was offering a “serious threat” and opening up the possibility of a “very dangerous and serious situation”.
Spokesman Kim Min-seok said the plane had been at an altitude of six miles, while the projectile’s peak altitude was 12 miles. The missile was launched at 4.17pm local time, with the aircraft passing at 4.24pm.
A North Korean army spokesman said last night that rocket drills conducted from 21 February until Tuesday were part of regular training.
He said neither regional security nor the international navigation were in danger because the North took “scrupulous advance security measures for flight orbit and targets in the designated waters”.
A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman called for all sides to continue improving relations and to refrain from provocations.
Seoul officials say the suspected artillery launch on Tuesday and others that included Scud missiles in previous days were protests at the current US-South Korean military drills that Pyongyang considers invasion preparation.
Washington and Seoul say the drills, which prompted threats of nuclear war from the North a year ago, are defensive in nature and meant to deter North Korean aggression.
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