SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korean officials on Thursday criticized a North Korean artillery launch that they say happened minutes before a Chinese commercial plane reportedly carrying 202 people flew in the same area.
It wasn't immediately clear what danger, if any, the launch Tuesday posed to the China Southern Airlines plane traveling from Tokyo to Shenyang, China, but 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 (6 miles), while the projectile's peak altitude was 20 kilometers (12 miles). 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."
Asked about the incident, 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 Tuesday and others that included Scud missiles in previous days were protests of ongoing U.S.-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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