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Asiana Airlines Plane Shot At by South Korean Marines

Asiana Airlines Logo & PlaneSafety at Incheon International Airport, one of the leading aviation hubs in Asia, is expected to be criticised after South Korean marines fired rifles at an Asiana Airlines plane as it was arriving from Qingdao, China. It’s been reported that the men fired in fear that the jet was a hostile North Korean fighter.

The carrier, which is the country’s second largest airliner, confirmed that one of its planes was shot at by marines. The plane was carrying 119 people as it descended for landing at the Incheon International Airport last Friday morning through heavy fog. The men missed the plane due to their position on Gyodong Island, a small island off the coast near the border with the North, the airline added. Asiana spokesman Jason Kim also noted that the plane was on its regular flight path and that the crew and passengers didn’t know about the shooting until after the landing, when military officials asked them if there was any damage done to the plane or injuries to anyone on board.

Defence officials have been cited by state news agency Yonhap playing down how severe the shooting was, saying that the marines’ rifles were out of range of the plane. A South Korean Air Force official says that a plane in the fog at 4am could be seen as a hostile aircraft to a guard. However, the sound of military and commercial planes is different. Though the fog could have made it worse, they need to be able to tell the difference better.

The shooting came just 2 days following South Korean president Lee Myung-bak urging troops to have ‘fighting spirit.’ This comes as he launches a new command structure for troops who are guarding the maritime border between the north and south, which is a key strategic fear in Seoul. This is especially true since Pyongyang insists that the border be further south, and security officials regularly speak of their fear that Pyongyang could try to disrupt the south’s economy by threatening Incheon security. Airliners using this airport pass this border closely but have regular flight paths known to the country’s forces based on the border islands.

The incident also follows the country suffering 2 attacks last year from North Korea on this border, and the government and military have vowed not to be caught off guard a third time. The first of these attacks happened in March, when a South Korean warship was sank by a North Korean submarine, resulting in the deaths of 46 people. Then in November, another 4 people died when the southern island of Yeonpyiong was bombarded by North Korean artillery. After these 2 attacks by North Korea, the government in South Korea was intensely criticised about its mostly drafted military of about 650,000 personnel not being prepared for the attacks and unable to decisively strike back against Pyongyang’s army of 1 million men.

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