South Korean troops fired at a passenger airliner flying from China with 119 people on board after mistaking it for a North Korean aircraft, military and aviation officials said today.
The incident on Friday took place close to the tense sea border between the Koreas amid heightened tensions between Seoul and Pyongyang.
Soldiers manning a guard post on Gyodong island off the western coast of South Korea fired their K-2 rifles towards the plane, which was descending as it approached Seoul’s Incheon International Airport.
Gyodong lies just 1.7 kilometres south of the North Korean coast.
The plane was flying southeast over Jumun island, 12 kilometres south of Gyodong, towards Incheon.
“The firing continued about 10 minutes but the plane was too far off the rifle’s range and it did not receive any damage,” Yonhap news agency quoted a Marine Corps official as saying.
“When the plane appeared over Jumun island, soldiers mistook it as a North Korean military aircraft and fired.”
A Marine Corps spokesman told AFP the report was correct but declined to give further details.
An aviation controller told AFP that the Asiana flight from China, with 119 people including crew members and passengers on board, was following a normal route.
“It was flying normally. It did not deviate from its normal route,” the controller said.
South Korean soldiers had been alerted to possible provocative acts by North Korea amid simmering cross-border tensions.
An Asiana spokesman said the plane was not in danger as it was too far away from the military guard post.
The soldiers gave a report about the incident to their seniors within five to 10 minutes after the incident, Yonhap said.
Defense Minister Kim Kwan-Jin has told frontline troops that if North Koreans attack, they are to strike back immediately without waiting for orders from top commanders about how to respond.
UM yeah, just make sure it’s not a civilian plane! Duh!
“Don’t ask your commanders whether to fire back or not. Take actions first and then report afterwards,” Kim was quoted as saying when he visited the western frontline in March.
Ties between the two Koreas remain at their lowest ebb in more than a decade after Pyongyang announced late last month it was breaking all contacts with the South’s conservative government.
Source – AFP