China chides North Korea over missile's near-miss with passenger jet
Beijing publicly expressed its displeasure yesterday amid reports that Tuesday's rocket test launch by North Korea had crossed the path of a Chinese passenger flight.
Asked if Beijing had raised with Pyongyang the reported incident, foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said China was concerned and attached great importance to civil aviation safety.
"When the relevant country holds any military training or exercise, it should take necessary measures in accordance with international practice, so as to ensure the safety of civilian planes and vessels in the [affected] airspace and sea."
"China would certainly verify the situation with the relevant party and convey our concern," Qin said.
China Southern Airlines flight CZ268 from Japan to Shenyang in the northeastern Liaoning province crossed the trajectory of a rocket launched seven minutes earlier by North Korea, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday, citing South Korean defence ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok.
The jet was flying over international waters at an altitude of 10,000 metres at 4.24pm when it crossed the trajectory of the missile, which reached a height of 20,000 metres, the report said.
Foreign relations expert Jia Qingguo from Peking University said Qin's comment marked a change in the way China was dealing with North Korea.
"In the past China would prefer not to take a stand in public and keep bilateral dialogue private. This time China made it very clear that [North Korea] must not let similar incidents happen in the future," said Jia.
According to Kim, North Korea had not given any warning before it launched the rocket. "The rocket could have hit the plane on its way down. It was an unexpected and immoral act that goes against international norms," he said.
Qin said yesterday the flight did not detect any "special situation" when flying past North Korea and related airspace.
Jia said the overlap was probably a coincidence, although it posed a real danger to the flight.