A former senior officer in the PLA has urged the government to take a tougher stance with North Korea after reports that a mainland airliner passed through the trajectory of rocket launched minutes earlier by Pyongyang.
Lieutenant-General Wang Hongguang, the former deputy commander of the Nanjing Military District Command, made the remarks in an article he wrote in the Global Times, which is controlled by the Communist Party newspaper the People’s Daily.
“North Korea’s military apparently ignored that a Chinese civil aircraft was approaching the danger zone, but still launched the rocket. Our authorities must not sit tight on this,” said Wang.
A South Korean defence ministry spokesman said last week that a China Southern Airlines aircraft flying from Japan to Shenyang in Liaoning province, carrying 220 passengers, crossed the trajectory of a missile fired by North Korea on March 4.
The jet was flying over international waters at an altitude of 10,000 metres and the rocket had been fired seven minutes earlier, spokesman Kim Min-seok said.
A Foreign Ministry spokesman in Beijing, Qin Gang, expressed Beijing’s displeasure last week.
“China will certainly verify the situation with the relevant party and convey our concern,” he said.
Lieutenant-General Wang said in his article that Beijing’s response had been too soft.
“It’s not appropriate to use such played-down wording. Instead, [they] must harshly criticise North Korea and ask them to promise no repeat of similar incidents,” he wrote.
Diplomatic analysts have suggested that China, a key ally of North Korea, has become concerned about the unpredictability of Pyongyang’s actions, including the execution of leader Kim Jong-un’s uncle last December.
Wang wrote another article in a magazine linked to the People’s Daily last October, saying North Korea’s nuclear programme posed a threat to China’s security.