North Korean Rocket Reroutes 20 Flights

By The Associated Press 10 April 2012

MANILA, Philippines—Several airlines will reroute flights over the Philippines to avoid a rocket North Korea is expected to launch between this and next week, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines said on Tuesday.

About 20 flights including Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, All Nippon Airways, Japan Airlines, Korean Airlines, Garuda Indonesia and Delta Airlines will be rerouted between Thursday and Monday, when North Korea says it will launch a satellite. The exact timing depends on weather.

Floramel Joy Songsong, spokeswoman for the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, said the agency will temporarily close three northeastern air corridors, which will result in an additional 20 minutes of travel time for the airlines.

Japanese carriers JAL and ANA will change flight paths on routes connecting Tokyo to Manila, Jakarta and Singapore, while domestic flights will not be affected.

JAL has four flights a day on the expected rocket launch dates. Airline official Norio Higashimine said each flight will carry more fuel in case of an unexpected route change.

ANA is making similar route changes on five flights.

Philippine officials also told ships and fishing boats to avoid northeastern territorial waters where rocket debris may fall.

North Korea says the satellite will observe crops and natural resources and denies suspicions that the launch is intended to test long-range missile technology.

North Korea has said that it chose the southerly flight path from the rocket launch site so debris wouldn’t hurt neighboring countries. The first phase of the rocket is expected to fall into the Yellow Sea southwest of South Korea, and the second into the ocean about 140 km (87 miles) east of the Philippines’ main northern island of Luzon.

But there has been widespread fear over falling debris from the rocket. Japan’s defense minister has ordered missile units to intercept the rocket if it or its fragments threaten to hit Japan. Seoul has also warned it might shoot down any parts of the North Korean rocket heading for South Korean territory.