SINGAPORE: The crew on board a Cathay Pacific plane flying over Japan last week has reported the suspected sighting of North Korea's missile test, the airline said.
The South China Morning Post on Monday (Dec 4) cited confirmation from Cathay Pacific that the crew on board flight CX893 from San Francisco to Hong Kong saw what is said to be a re-entry of a North Korean missile into the Earth's atmosphere on Nov 29.
“Though the flight was far from the event location, the crew advised Japan ATC [air traffic control] according to procedure,” a Cathay spokeswoman told the South China Morning Post.
Cathay Pacific general manager Mark Hoey was also reported to have told staff via an online communication platform that the crew described seeing the missile "blow up and fall apart", the South China Morning Post reported.
"Be advised, we witnessed the DPRK missile blow up and fall apart near our current location,” Mr Hoey was quoted as saying.
Flight trackers showed that the plane was flying over Japan when North Korea conducted its Hwasong-15 missile test.
The South China Morning Post also cited the Cathay spokesperson as saying that flight operations remained normal and were not affected.
Despite the incident, the Hong Kong flagship carrier does not intend to alter its routes in the region, the spokeswoman was quoted as saying.
At least one other Cathay plane - cargo flight CX096, which left Hong Kong for Alaska on Nov 28 - was also in the region at the time of the missile test, the South China Morning Post reported.
North Korea said the latest launch on Nov 29 was a "breakthrough" because its nuclear weapons could now reportedly reach the US. It also said the missile reached an altitude of 4,475km and splashed down 950km from its launch site into the Sea of Japan.
However, analysts remain unconvinced that North Korea has mastered the advanced technology to allow the rocket to survive re-entry to the Earth's atmosphere.
Tensions between the US and North Korea have also continued to escalate as the largest ever US-South Korea air exercise is set to begin on Monday.