North Korea’s sabre-rattling statement that it could not guarantee the safety of South Korean passenger aircraft entering its air space has prompted airlines of other countries to reroute their flights away from the danger zone. The route is used regularly on services to the US.
While the North Korea government did not specify whether they would shoot down planes, no one is taking any chances.
Air Canada and Singapore Airlines joined and South Korea’s flag carriers Korean Air and Asiana altering their flight path to fly over Japan.
While the move means extra thousands of dollars more in fuel consumption, “the safety of our passengers is paramount,” said an Asiana spokesperson. At press time, it was still not known whether this would also mean increased fares.
Pundits have speculated that the North issued the warning due to joint military drills between South Korea and the US this Monday, which it believes is an attempt to provoke a nuclear war.
Relations between the have worsened since conservative South Korean president Lee Myung-bak took office a year ago and has been refusing to provide the impoverished North with aid unless the regime honoured its promise to dismantle its nuclear programme.
In July last year, a South Korean tourist was fatally shot in a pre-dawn stroll along a beach in the North’s Diamond Mountain. The woman had been ordered to halt after entering a military area, and ran away before North Korean soldiers opened fire.
Margie T Logarta