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.
Any missile launches must be reported to the International Civil Aviation Organization to assure the safety of civilian aircraft. The new route avoided the northern part of the Sea of Japan, the spokesperson said.
The missile was far from the plane, and operation was unaffected, Cathay said, adding that it had informed other carriers and relevant authorities. "At the moment, no one is changing any routes or operating parameters", the airline said in a statement.
The closest shave was on Nov 29, where crew on at least three commercial flights from Korean Air and Cathay Pacific reportedly saw the North Korean missile in the air before it blew up near their location.
Four minutes later another Korean Air plane on a Los Angeles-Incheon flight also reported the same sighting to Japanese control, he said.
David C. Wright, a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, wrote in a report Tuesday that the Cathay crew most likely had seen the missile's first stage burn out and fall back to earth.
Meanwhile, tensions on the Korean Peninsula continue to escalate, with the US and South Korea launching major joint drills on Monday.
North Korea has long objected against joint drills by the two allies, with Pyongyang's ambassador to the United Nations ruling out negotiations with Washington in November, citing America's "hostile policy" against his country and continuing joint exercises.