Airline Crew Says They Saw North Korean Test Missile Re-Enter Atmosphere

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Singapore Airlines announced this week that they have rerouted a flight from Seoul to Los Angeles.

USA officials told CNN that the re-entry vehicle likely failed during North Korea's most recent missile test, and the crew of a Cathay Pacific flight claims to have seen the missile explode during re-entry, although David Wright, a senior physicist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, suspects that the crew actually saw stage separation and second-stage ignition during the ascent. Early last month, USA officials told CNN that the North was developing a new, more advanced ICBM, one potentially superior to the Hwasong-14 ICBM tested twice successfully in July. Korean Air said the pilots on two of its flights bound for Seoul "saw a flash and everyone is assuming it should be the missile because of the timing". North Korea state media reported the Hwasong-15 reached an altitude of 4,475 kilometers (2,800 miles), putting the "whole" U.S. mainland in range.

Meanwhile, Senator Lindsey Graham said Sunday on "Face the Nation" that preemptive war in North Korea is "becoming more likely" as the country's improving missile technology presents an increasing threat.

The Cathay plane didn't travel over that part of the sea either, according to flight tracking data.

"Be advised, we witnessed the DPRK missile blow up and fall apart near our current location..." For the time being, there are no planned changes to existing Cathay Pacific routes. "We remain alert and (will) review the situation as it evolves".

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Described by Pyongyang as its "most powerful" missile, the 29 November launch ended up in Japanese waters but flew higher than any other the North had previously tested.

North Korea appears to have doctored photos from its latest missile launch.

As a member of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the North is obliged to give prior notice of any actions that could threaten the safety of civilian aircraft.

Travelers who are concerned should know the chances of an airplane colliding with a missile are extremely low: One safety analyst estimates that it is less than a billion to one.

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