Sunday 22 April 2018

Airline changed flight route due to fears of missile launch

North Korea’s missile programme is affecting transpacific air routes
North Korea’s missile programme is affecting transpacific air routes

Nicola Smith

Singapore Airlines changed a flight route between South Korea and the US earlier this year over fears about North Korean missile launches in the Asia-Pacific region, it has emerged.

An airline spokesperson said it had rerouted daily flights between the South Korean capital, Seoul, and Los Angeles after Pyongyang test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in July.

On July 28, an Air France flight from Tokyo to Paris, carrying 323 people, passed just 100km from the splashdown site of a North Korean missile test, roughly five to 10 minutes after it hit the water. The French airline expanded its no-fly zone over North Korea as a result.

North Korea's attempts to develop an ICBM to carry a nuclear warhead to strike the American mainland have put commercial airlines operating in the busy East Asian airspace on alert, even though the chances of a plane colliding with a missile are minuscule.

Risk

According to guidelines issued by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), a UN agency in charge of air safety, nations have the "responsibility to issue risk advisories regarding any threats to the safety of civilian aircraft operating in their airspace".

Pyongyang, already subject to UN sanctions for its nuclear and missile programme, regularly fails to issue any warnings.

The crew of a Cathay Pacific flight from San Francisco to Hong Kong on November 29 reported the sighting of what they believed was a North Korean missile as it re-entered the earth's atmosphere.

The North Koreans claimed on that day to have fired the Hwasong-15, its biggest and most powerful missile to date. It reportedly reached 1,600km higher than the July launch.

In a statement, Cathay said the flight was "far from the event location" and that it had been in touch with the relevant authorities but had no plans to change its routes. "We remain alert and review the situation as it evolves," it added.

Irish Independent

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