North Korea warns airlines over satellite fears

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

In what has been interpreted as a thinly veiled threat, the North Korean government in Pyongyang has issued a statement saying that it could not guarantee the safety of airliners transiting its airspace.

The warning has led to Korean Air, Asiana Airlines and international carriers Air Canada and Singapore Airlines to reroute services that normally pass through North Korean airspace.

The statement has been widely condemned, with South Korean spokesman Kim Ho-nyeon saying "Threatening civilian airliners' normal operations under international aviation regulations is not only against the international rules but is an act against humanity..."

The latest interchange of words comes on the eve of two events. The first a launch of a North Korean satellite seen by the United States, Japan and South Korea as a test launch of North Korea's Taepodong-2 ballistic missile.

This satellite launch coincides with an annual joint United States, South Korean military exercise, which the North has condemned in the past as a dress rehearsal for an invasion. An expansion of this year's exercises in length and scale is being seen by Pyongyang as cover for preparations to shoot down its launch vehicle.

Pyongyang has threatened both Japan and the United States, the two nations in the region capable of shooting down its satellite with "...merciless retaliatory blows" and has placed its 1.2 million strong army on alert.

"North Korea says it's preparing to launch space program, denies preparations to test missile" — Wikinews, Monday, February 16, 2009