Rex Tillerson: N Korean ICBM launch puts international airspace at risk

Vancouver: Passengers on a San Francisco-to-Hong Kong commercial flight witnessed a North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile launch (ICBM) in November, reflecting the "recklessness" of Kim Jong-Un's regime, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Tuesday in Vancouver.

"According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the flight was 280 nautical miles from point of impact, and at the time there were nine other flights within that range," Tillerson said addressing press officials from allied nations to tighten sanctions on Pyongyang.

"Over the course of that day, according to the Department of Defense, an estimated 716 flights were due to pass within that same range," he added.

Tillerson, however, did not say which airlines the passengers were travelling by, or whether the plane changed route as a result.

The launch flew for 53 minutes on a lofted trajectory and may have reached an altitude of more than 2,500 miles (4,000 kilometers) before landing in waters about 155 miles (250 kilometers) from Japan's northwest coast, Japanese officials said at the time.

According to U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis, this launch was higher than any previous missile launch by North Korea.

Tillerson also said that North Korea's willingness to launch missiles is a threat to people of all nationalities as the airspace is not safe, adding, "threat to commercial aviation is not the "likeliest" threat posed by the regime's weapons program."

The Secretary of State also said that North Korea is not expected to be considerate of what comes in the way of one its missiles or a broken part thereof.

Crew of Hong Kong-based airlines Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. and Korean Air Lines Co. said they saw the test missile while flying towards Asia.

Cathay's flight 893 from San Francisco reported the sighting and advised Japanese air traffic control, the carrier said in an emailed statement at the time.

 Korean air crew departing from Los Angeles and San Francisco saw a "flash" in the air, according to a company spokesperson.

Neither of the companies, however, plan to change route because of the sighting.
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