August 19, 2010 10:22
A North Korean MiG-21 fighter jet crashed on Tuesday afternoon in the northeastern Chinese province of Liaoning. The Soviet-era plane crashed into a farm area in Lagu Township in Fushun County, about 200 km north of the border separating China and North Korea. The pilot died on impact.
China's Xinhua news agency did not say which country the fighter jet came from or whether the pilot had died, but photos of the scene of the crash apparently taken by a Chinese resident and posted on the Internet showed a North Korean flag on the tail of the plane. Japan's Kyodo News cited Hong Kong media reports as saying the pilot died and the copilot escaped by parachute.
One diplomat in Beijing who is a military expert said, "There is a bulge in the fuselage and the wing is delta-shaped and perpendicular to the body, showing it is a MiG-21." He said since the plane did not burst into flames when it crashed, it was probably out of fuel and attempted an emergency landing.
Intelligence sources in Beijing believe the pilot crashed the plane in an attempt to defect but have not ruled out mechanical failure. A diplomatic source in Beijing said, "Staff from the North Korean consulate in Shenyang arrived at the scene of the crash, and the plane was not attacked by the Chinese military, so it is still unclear whether the crew were defecting or experienced technical problems."
The South Korean military is apparently analyzing the crash. A South Korean military source said, "Our radars identified the aircraft taking off from an airbase near the North Korean city of Sinuiju on Tuesday afternoon and tracked its movement through our air defense systems in Osan."
The MiG-21, developed in the 1950s, remains the main fighter jet in North Korea's arsenal. It has 180 of them.
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