North Korea defended on Wednesday its recent missile firings as "ordinary military practice," as South Korea said Tuesday's volley passed above a Chinese passenger jet's route just minutes ahead of the airliner.
In its first public comment on the launches, North Korea's state media said the missiles' accuracy ensured they wouldn't affect neighboring countries. The firings began on Feb. 21 and ended on Tuesday, state media said.
South Korean and U.S. officials confirmed that North Korea fired four Scud missiles into the sea last Thursday and two on Monday, as well as other short-range rockets on Tuesday. The firings of ballistic missiles breaches a United Nations test ban, but North Korea said Wednesday that the launches were a sovereign right.
Seoul's Defense Ministry said the North gave no warning of any of the tests. It added that rockets fired on Tuesday traveled six miles above airspace traversed by a China Southern Airlines, carrying 220 passengers and crew seven minutes later. The airliner was flying from Tokyo's Narita airport to Shenyang in northeastern China.
"Such North Korean provocations violate international navigation orders and pose a serious threat to civilian safety," ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said.