Flight Crew Saw North Korean Missile Break Apart, says Airline Executive

Flight Crew Saw North Korean Missile Break Apart, says Airline Executive

Cathay Pacific has confirmed that the crew on board one of its aircraft reported a suspected sighting of last week's North Korean missile test.

Cathay said Monday that the flight from San Francisco to Hong Kong reported witnessing the apparent re-entry of the ICBM that North Korea launched before dawn Wednesday.

Given the arbitrary nature of the tests, it is possible that a North Korean missile could hit an airplane traveling through airspace near the launch site.

The isolated and impoverished North has staged six increasingly powerful atomic tests since 2006 - most recently in September - which have rattled Washington and its key regional allies South Korea and Japan.

Hoey told staff the flight crew had advised air traffic control and that operations on the flight were normal. "We remain alert and (will) review the situation as it evolves".

Cathay Pacific said none of its flight routes were modified because of the North Korea missile, according to the BBC News.

The plane, which was flying from San Francisco to Hong Kong, was over Japan at the time.

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North Korea's test of the Hwasong-15 was reportedly its most advanced intercontinental ballistic missile and reached a record height of 2,800 miles, according to the country's state-run media, CNN reported.

He added that a separate Cathay Pacific flight, CX096, "might have been the closest [to the missile test], at a few hundred miles laterally", although there have been no reports from that flight's crew.

Defense Secretary James Mattis said he still had confidence in diplomatic efforts to address the North Korea situation, but that the US also has military options available.

The flight crew's description of the missile breaking up during re-entry suggests the regime's nuclear weapon program still has not yet developed that vehicle, though the regime itself has claimed it has completed its "state nuclear force".

Since the North Korea regime does not announce its missiles tests and does not have access to worldwide civil aviation data, the launches come without warning for commercial airliners and pose a potential risk to planes, the BBC News noted.

North Korea has long objected against joint drills by the two allies, with Pyongyang's ambassador to the United Nations ruling out negotiations with Washington in November, citing America's "hostile policy" against his country and continuing joint exercises.

"We're not going to let this insane man in North Korea have the capability to hit the homeland", he said.