Source: DTN News / AOL News Terence Neilan Contributor
(NSI News Source Info) TORONTO, Canada - August 18, 2010: A North Korean fighter jet crashed in China amid speculation that the pilot was trying to defect to Russia, according to South Korean intelligence officials cited today.
The pilot "died on the spot" after crashing into a makeshift house, China's state-run Xinhua news agency reported, adding that Beijing was investigating the incident and was in communication with North Korea. No one else was reported killed or wounded.
According to photographs of the wreckage said to have been taken by a Chinese resident, the plane appeared to be a Soviet-era MiG-21, the South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.
The agency quoted an unidentified intelligence official as saying the plane was thought to have lost direction after leaving North Korea and crashed about 155 miles across the Chinese border, in Fushun County, Liaoning Province, on Tuesday.
China has a repatriation pact with North Korea, and often returns defectors back to Pyongyang, which could explain why he may have been headed to Russia, Yonhap added.
An eyewitness, Cao Yunjuan, 54, told The New York Times today that he saw the plane going down, but that "There was no blast," which could rule out speculation that the plane was downed by the Chinese military.
North Korea is undergoing severe food shortages, largely as a result of international sanctions imposed for its illegal missile and nuclear tests. There are reports of a growing number of defections of desperate North Koreans.
But a defection by air is "highly unusual," the BBC reported, and could prove an embarrassment to the Pyongyang regime. Defections by air to South Korea occurred in 1983 and 1996.
In its brief report from Beijing, Xinhua said the crashed plane "might" be from North Korea.
But Mike Gething, an aviation analyst from the defense publisher IHS Jane's, told The Daily Telegraph: "It is a MiG-21 'Fishbed' and from the markings, it is North Korean."
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