In violation of what international rules demands the government of Pyongyang (North Korea) since 2014 stopped announcing its missile tests. It is a long time already that airlines changed their routes to stay outside the area of the exercises and to ensure flight safety by following the directives that time after time are issued by international agencies such as ICAO.
Some analysts observed that the Sea of Japan had been chosen as the North Korean tests target to avoid hitting another State by mistake, and how the time of launches was picked up to avoid the time of aircraft movement. After the test of July 4 (see AVIONEWS
) the spokesperson of the Defense Department of the United States Jeff Davis
said that the missile crossed an airspace used by commercial airplanes.
In the days following the launch of July 28 press reported the news that an Air France aircraft with more than three-hundred people on board flew at about 70 miles from the spot where the rocket had fallen. The company said that the test zones did not interfere in any way with its flights and that it constantly analyzes the potentially dangerous areas, adapting its flight plans accordingly as many other airlines do.
Other analysts also observed how flying above or beyond Japan would place aircraft in a safe area; the last launch -which took place on August 29 (see AVIONEWS 2
)- saw a missile falling in three parts beyond the eastern coast of the Japanese island Hokkaido, removing this last certainty.
Responding to this last act by Pyongyang, as it was reported by the US Pacific Command air forces of the United States, South Korea and Japan made joint exercises on August 30, bombing a target in the Korean peninsula as a show of force and as a deterrent for the North Korean government. Military exercises are announced and conducted in safety, but it is clear that in a climate of rising strain and that the Russian President Vladimir Putin
described as a dead end -inviting instead to easing tensions- the possibility that the situation may get out of control exists.
The risk to safety is therefore related to just a probability calculation -the possibility that an airplane get on a collision course with a missile or with its fragments- and even if it is very low, the risk is there. After all it is not a very unfavourable statistics to stop millions of people from playing the lottery.