Pilots of three commercial jets reported seeing what appeared to be the missile that North Korea launched last week, raising questions about the possible risk to civilian flights from the North’s weapons program. The flight crew of Cathay Pacific Flight 893 from San Francisco to Hong Kong last Wednesday saw “what is suspected to be the re-entry” of the North Korean missile, the airline said this week.
“At the moment, no one is changing any routes or operating parameters,” Cathay said in the statement. “Operation remained normal and was not affected. We have been in contact with relevant authorities and industry bodies as well as with other carriers.”
Korean Air also said no route adjustments are being made - in contrast to some European airlines. In August, Germany’s Deutsche Lufthansa AG said that Pyongyang’s missile tests had caused it to change flight routes to Japan, according to the Daily Mail. Air France-KLM also expanded its no-fly zone over North Korea, the report said.
North Korea fired what is believed to be the biggest and most powerful missile in its arsenal last Wednesday, the Hwasong-15, after a weeks-long lull in testing. United States Defense Secretary James Mattis said shortly after the missile was launched that the missile demonstrated North Korea may have the ability to hit "everywhere in the world."
Experts say there's a very low chance of a missile test colliding with a commercial aircraft as North Korean officials are most likely avoiding airline routes. Nonetheless, the latest incident is likely to only escalate tensions between North Korea and the U.S. and its allies in the region. The U.S. recently banned travel to the East Asian country, and China has cracked down on tours to Pyongyang and other parts of North Korea of late.