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(LEAD) N. Korean helicopter crashes in China, killing pilot: source
SHENYANG, China, Aug. 18 (Yonhap) -- A North Korean helicopter crashed in a Chinese border area, killing the pilot aboard who may have attempted to defect to Russia, intelligence sources here said Wednesday.

   The crash took place in Fushun Prefecture in the province of Liaoning Tuesday afternoon, the sources said, adding the pilot was the only person in the chopper when it crashed.
"The pilot died on the spot," one source said, adding the Chinese authorities were able to identify the nationality of the helicopter only after the crash.

   Chinese authorities had confirmed that a small aircraft flew into their territory but did not identify its origin.

   "The helicopter unexpectedly crashed while flying over Fushun," the source said, declining to be identified. It remains unclear what the model of the aircraft was.

   Another source said that the helicopter is believed to have lost its direction while flying to Russia after escaping North Korea. China has a repatriation pact with North Korea, and that may have led the pilot to choose Russia as his destination.

   Fushun is about 200 kilometers away from a North Korean air base in the border town of Sinuiju. The number of North Korean soldiers defecting from their impoverished homeland has increased in recent months as food shortages deepen, observers say.

  (END)