BEIJING: Beijing expressed concern Thursday after North Korea fired a rocket into the flight path of a Chinese airliner during weapons tests. The incident took place a day after China said it plans to spend 808.23 billion yuan ($132 billion) on its army for 2014.
Pyongyang has drawn criticism from Seoul and Washington for firing half a dozen short-range missiles off its east coast in recent days, followed on Tuesday by a volley of rockets from multiple launchers.
South Korea said a Chinese airliner with more than 200 passengers on board crossed the trajectory of one of the rockets seven minutes after it passed by.
China is North Korea’s key diplomatic protector and the source of much of its trade and aid.
“I want to stress we attach high importance to the security of national civil airlines,” said Beijing’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang.
Countries should take “necessary measures” when carrying out military drills “to ensure the security and safety of civil ships and aircraft,” he said.
“Without any doubt, China will verify the relevant situation with the relevant party and express necessary concerns over that,” Qin added.
South Korean officials criticized the North’s artillery launch. Seoul Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok called it a “serious threat” that Pyongyang failed to notify international aviation authorities of its launch plans in the area.
Kim said the plane was traveling at an altitude of 10 kilometers, while the projectile’s peak altitude was 20 kilometers. He said the flight passed through the area about five minutes after the projectile hit the water.
An unidentified North Korean Army spokesman said in a statement Wednesday night that rocket drills conducted from Feb. 21 until Tuesday were part of regular training. He said that 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.”