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Plane crash in northeast China stirs speculation about origin

By Steven Jiang, CNN
Photograph of the downed plane show North Korean air force markings in on the fuselage.
Photograph of the downed plane show North Korean air force markings in on the fuselage.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The crash site is about 120 miles from a North Korean air base
  • Security has cordoned off the site
  • Plane enthusiasts say it is a fighter jet
RELATED TOPICS
  • North Korea
  • China

Beijing, China (CNN) -- A small aircraft crashed in northeastern China close to the border with North Korea, killing its pilot and fueling speculation Wednesday about its origin.

China's official Xinhua news agency said in several brief dispatches that the plane, which went down Tuesday afternoon at Lagu Township in Fushun County, "might be" from North Korea. It confirmed the death of the pilot and the destruction of a residential house on the ground, but added no one else was hurt. Xinhua said that the Chinese government is communicating with Pyongyang about the incident.

The crash location in Liaoning province is about 200 kilometers (120 miles) away from a North Korean air base in the border town of Sinuiju, according to South Korea's Yonhap news agency.

An employee at Songgang Iron Ore, a company near the crash site, told CNN there was a large security presence in the area, with armed police officers and special forces agents cordoning off the crash site.

Photographs of the wreckage purportedly taken by an eyewitness have been circulating on Chinese websites, showing the North Korean air force emblem on the fuselage beneath the tail. Military enthusiasts online have identified the aircraft as a Russian-built MiG jet but differed on the specific model, with some calling it a MiG-21 fighter and others claiming it to be a MiG-15 trainer

Yonhap quoted unnamed sources in South Korea as saying the plane's pilot may have been trying to defect from North Korea to Russia, losing direction en route and killing himself on impact of the ensuing crash. Chinese commentators have speculated that the plane may have run out of fuel.

An official at the Liaoning provincial foreign affairs office declined to comment, while the Chinese foreign ministry in Beijing referred journalists to the Xinhua news report.