Japanese and South Korea airlines alter flight paths
Satellite launch planned by North Korea overlaps with some flight routes
Airlines want to avoid possibility of falling rocket parts
Japanese and South Korean airlines are altering some flight paths to avoid possible falling rocket parts after North Korea said it planned to launch a satellite.
Pyongyang told the International Maritime Organization Tuesday it intends to launch an Earth observation satellite between February 8 and 25, IMO spokeswoman Natasha Brown told CNN.
The planned launch overlaps with some flight routes connecting Japan with the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.
Based on coordinates provided by North Korea to the IMO, the first stage and fairing of the rocket will drop off in waters between South Korea and China. Its second stage is expected to fall into waters off the Philippines’ northern coast.
Japan Airlines (JAL) and All Nippon Airways (ANA) announced Thursday changes in seven flight paths between Japan and Southeast Asian capitals during the announced launch window.
These route changes will stretch flight times by five to ten minutes, according to the officials.
“The move is to comfort customers who might worry about their flights in the region, given how North Korea’s announcement to launch a satellite was so widely covered in the media,” an airline spokesperson told CNN.
South Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport also said that airlines would re-route 41 flights between February 8 and 25.
Nations condemn satellite launch
While North Korea says it’s putting a satellite into orbit, the launch is viewed by others as a front for a ballistic missile test.
South Korea condemned the planned launch as a “direct challenge against the international community,” and warned that North Korea would pay a “grave price” if it went ahead.
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also urged North Korea to “refrain” from the launch and said his Cabinet was working closely with the United States and South Korea to gather information and prepare a potential response.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang expressed “deep concern” over the launch.
“We hope (North Korea) will exercise restraint and caution in its actions. It should not act in a way that may escalate tensions on the peninsula,” Lu said Wednesday.
CNN’s Yoko Wakatsuki, K.J. Kwon and Bobin Seo contributed to this report.