China has conveyed its serious concern to ally North Korea after a Chinese commercial flight with more than 200 people in it crossed the path of a missile launched by Pyongyang on Tuesday.
North Korea had fired the missile on Tuesday afternoon, the South Korean defence ministry said on Wednesday, adding that no prior warning was given before the launch.
Agency reports quoted the South Korean defence spokesperson as saying within about 7 minutes of the launch, a China Southern Airlines plane carrying 220 passengers from Japan's Narita airport to Shenyang in China passed through the rocket's trajectory.
“It was a very dangerous situation,” spokesperson Kim Min-Seok told reporters in Seoul.
He said the missile passed the aircraft while on its path of descent.
“North Korea's provocative actions violate the international navigation laws and pose a great threat to the safety of civilians.”
South Korea had notified Chinese authorities about the incident, he added.
The rocket in question was one of 7 fired on Tuesday by North Korea into the sea off its east coast, according to South Korean authorities.
“On this issue, we have already contacted the North Korean side to convey our deep concern,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Qin Gang said at the daily press briefing on Friday.
On Thursday, after the incident was report, Qin Gang had said that the plane flew through North Korean airspace “normally on that day without incident.”
“When relevant countries conduct military training or exercises, they should abide by international custom to take measures that would ensure the safety of civil aircraft or ships passing through their airspace or territorial water,” Qin said.
He said that China attaches a great deal of importance to the safety of its civil aircraft and would “seek verification from relevant parties and express necessary concern from our side.”
China Southern chairman Si Xianmin confirmed to Reuters that one of his firm's planes intersected the trajectory of the North Korean missile.
“The report is true, but the missile was far away from the plane -- it was 6 minutes away and I don't know how many kilometers away in terms of altitude,” Si told Reuters.