Cathay Pacific flight crew reported a suspected sighting of North Korea’s latest missile test, the airline confirmed on Monday.
The company told HuffPost the crew of flight CX893 witnessed “what is suspected to be the re-entry of the recent DPRK test missile” last week while travelling over Japan.
A spokesperson added: “Though the flight was far from the event location, the crew advised Japan ATC according to procedures. Operation remained normal and was not affected.
“We have been in contact with relevant authorities and industry bodies as well as with other carriers. At the moment, no one is changing any routes or operating parameters. ”
The launch was reportedly also witnessed by two South Korean aircraft en route to Seoul from the US, the BBC reported.
The South China Morning Post reported that Cathay’s general manager of operations, Mark Hoey, told staff in a message that the crew had “witnessed the DPRK missile blow up and fall apart near our current location”.
North Korea tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile on November 29 that it claimed could reach anywhere in the US.
The test of the missile, described by Pyongyang as its “most powerful”, was a continuation of a weapons program that it has conducted in defiance of international sanctions and condemnation.
In August, Air France-KLM expanded its no-fly zone over North Korea after one of its jets flew past the location where an intercontinental ballistic missile splashed down 10 minutes later.
North Korea does not announce its missile tests which means they come without warning and pose potential risks to planes.
That danger is exacerbated by the fact that Pyongyang does have access to international civil aviation data so it can study the airspace before any launch.
Meanwhile, the US and South Korea on Monday went ahead with large-scale joint aerial drills, a move that North Korea said would push the Korean peninsula to “the brink of nuclear war”.
Russia and China had called for the exercise to be cancelled in exchange for North Korea halting its weapons programmes.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said it was “regrettable” that all parties had not “grasped the window of opportunity” presented by two months of relative calm before the North’s most recent test.
The annual US-South Korean drill, called Vigilant Ace, will run until Friday with six F-22 Raptor stealth fighters to be deployed among the more than 230 aircraft taking part.
North Korea’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country called US President Donald Trump “insane” on Sunday and said the drills would “push the already acute situation on the Korean peninsula to the brink of nuclear war”.
F-35 fighters will also join the drills, which will include the largest number of 5th generation fighters ever to have taken part, a South Korea-based US Air Force spokesman told Reuters.
Around 12,000 US service members, including from the Marines and Navy, will join South Korean troops. Aircraft taking part will be flown from eight US and South Korean military installations.
South Korean media reports said B-1B Lancer bombers could join the exercise this week. The US Air Force spokesman could not confirm the reports.
Trump said last week that additional major sanctions would be imposed on North Korea after Pyongyang’s latest missile test.
Earlier last month, Trump put North Korea back on a list of state sponsors of terrorism, a designation that allows the United States to impose more sanctions.
Meanwhile, Russia has accused the US of trying to provoke North Korean leader Kim Jong Un into “flying off the handle” over his missile program to hand Washington a pretext to destroy his country.
Speaking at a news briefing in Beijing, Wang said China consistently opposed any behavior that elevated tensions.
“And measures that don’t abide by or are outside the UN Security Council resolutions lack basis in international law and damage the rights of United Nations members,” Wang said when asked about the prospect of further U.S. sanctions against North Korea.
China’s Air Force said on Monday that its surveillance aircraft had in recent days conducted drills in the Yellow Sea and East China Sea to “improve combat-readiness and safeguard the country’s strategic interests”.
The joint exercises between South Korea and United States are designed to enhance readiness and operational capability and to ensure peace and security on the Korean peninsula, the US military had said before the drills began.
The North’s KCNA state news agency, citing a foreign ministry spokesman, said on Saturday the Trump administration was “begging for nuclear war by staging an extremely dangerous nuclear gamble on the Korean peninsula”.
North Korea regularly uses its state media to threaten the US and its allies.
North Korea has tested dozens of ballistic missiles and conducted its sixth and largest nuclear bomb test in September, in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.
It has said its weapons programs are a necessary defense against US plans to invade. The United States, which has 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War, denies any such intention.