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China voices concern over N. Korea's disregard of air safety rules


China expressed concern Thursday about North Korea's recent disregard of international obligations to ensure the safety of civil aviation.

"I want to stress that we attach high importance to the safety of our civil airlines," Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a regular press briefing a day after it became known a Chinese airliner with more than 200 people onboard flew near the trajectory of rocket-propelled projectiles launched by North Korea earlier this week.

Without naming North Korea, he urged other countries carrying out military exercises to "take necessary measures in accordance with international conventions to ensure the safety of civil ships and aircraft."

"Of course, China will verify the relevant situation with relevant parties and express necessary concern over that," he said.

On Wednesday, a South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman said the aircraft of China Southern Airlines, which took off from Japan's Narita airport to the northern Chinese city Shenyang, passed through the area of the rockets' trajectory about 7 minutes after the firing Tuesday.

North Korea did not give advance notice to neighboring countries about the rocket firings nor did it set up a no-fly zone in the area, according to South Korean and Japanese government officials.

On Wednesday, an unidentified North Korean army spokesman described the country's rocket-launch drills from Feb. 21 until Tuesday as part of regular training.

"The drills were smoothly conducted with no slight impact not only on the regional peace and security but on international navigation order and ecological environment," he said in a statement dispatched by the North's official Korean Central News Agency.

On Thursday, the Chinese spokesman also said "peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula serve the interests of all relevant parties and we hope that all relevant parties would do more to ease tensions instead of the other way around."