Korean Air and Asiana Airlines are followed by Air Canada and Singapore Airlines in routing flights around North Korean airspace. The change comes as a result of North Korean warnings that it “cannot guarantee the safety of South Korean passenger jets” if the United States and South Korea move forward with annual joint military maneuvers. This annual event yields an annual complaint.
The exercise, called Operation Foal Eagle, is one of three remaining joint exercises left on the Korean peninsula. North Korea is notified every year of the operation, which tends to involve a large number of U.S. military personnel stationed in South Korea. This year, participation is expected to reach 26,000. The countries involved have engaged in high-level talks on the matter.
The communist regime did not indicate the specific problems that would befall South Korean flights that came to close to their neighbor’s airspace, though two flights were downed in the 1980s: one by a Soviet-made fighter jet (1983) and one by bomb-toting North Korean agents (1987).
Of course, North Korea may have issued the warning because it has its own plans for that airspace, with MSNBC reporting that “Kim [Jong Il, North Korea’s leader] hinted the threat could be a way to clear airspace before a possible missile launch.”
[Photo via Gawker]