Singapore Airlines reroutes some flights to avoid North Korean missiles

Casey Dawson
December 6, 2017

South Korea's military says the missile flew ten times higher than the International Space Station.

The move came after the July 27 missile launch by North Korea into the Sea of Japan, Singapore Airlines said on Tuesday (Dec 5) in response to queries from Channel NewsAsia.

The crew of a Cathay Pacific airplane flying from San Francisco to Hong Kong reported seeing the North Korean missile "blow up and fall apart" at the end of its test flight.

Their crew say they saw what appeared to be the test missile on re-entry as they flew towards Asia from the US West Coast. While it has a theoretical range greater than 8,000 miles, the missile only traveled a distance of about 600 miles from the launch point.

The threat posed by North Korea's sudden missile launches to civilian aviation is a growing concern in the region, although experts rate the probability of midair collisions as very low.

The Cathay Pacific flight took off from San Francisco and was bound for Hong Kong.

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"Though the flight was far from the event location, the crew advised Japan [air traffic control] according to procedures", the airline spokesman said, noting that flight operation wasn't affected by the suspected sighting. North Korean tests post a potential risk to planes as it rarely issues warnings of the launches or its missiles' intended flight path. "We remain alert and review the situation as it evolves".

"With this system, the DPRK [North Korea] has become possessed of another new-type intercontinental ballistic rocket weaponry system capable of carrying super heavy nuclear warheads and attacking the whole mainland of the US", reported North Korea's state-run KCNA on November 29.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in October condemned North Korea for the repeated launching of ballistic missiles, saying they seriously threatened the safety of international civil aviation.

The flight crew's description of the missile breaking up during re-entry suggests the regime's nuclear weapon program still has not yet developed that vehicle, though the regime itself has claimed it has completed its "state nuclear force".

Meanwhile, Senator Lindsey Graham said Sunday on "Face the Nation" that preemptive war in North Korea is "becoming more likely" as the country's improving missile technology presents an increasing threat.

It's not the first time this year a North Korean missile has had a close call with a passenger plane.

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