Japan diverts Manila flights over rocket launch


TOKYO: Japan’s two biggest airlines on Friday said they are changing routes for some flights as North Korea plans to launch what it says will be a satellite-bearing rocket later this month.

All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines said that between February 8 and 25— the launch window announced by Pyongyang —they will divert planes that fly over waters off the Philippines where missile parts and debris are expected to fall after the launch.

The change will affect three ANA flights—from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport to Manila, from Manila to Tokyo’s Narita International Airport, and from Jakarta in Indonesia to Narita, the airline said.

Two JAL flights, meanwhile, from Jakarta to Narita and from Narita to Manila, will also be diverted, Japan Airlines said.

All the flights are expected to suffer delays of between five and 10 minutes, the carriers said.

Sanctions imposed by the United Nations prohibit North Korea from any use of ballistic missile technology, and such a launch would amount to another major violation of UN Security Council resolutions after its fourth nuclear test last month.

The North insists its space program is purely scientific in nature, but the United States and allies including South Korea say its rocket launches are aimed at developing an inter-continental ballistic missile capable of striking the US mainland.

The Philippines joined an international demand for North Korea to refrain from conducting a rocket launch, calling it a “provocation” and a violation of existing United Nations resolutions.

In a statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said it is “deeply concerned about North Korea’s notification that it intends to conduct a rocket launch as this will violate numerous UN Security Council resolutions.”

“The Philippines strongly urges the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] to desist from such provocative acts that threaten the peace and stability of the region and the rest of the world,” the DFA added.

Instability in the Korean Peninsula has long worried the Philippines because of  the large presence of Filipino workers there, numbering at least 43,000.

An escalation of conflict is also seen to affect at least 200,000 Filipinos in neighboring Japan, according to the Commission on Filipinos Overseas.


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