SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea said Monday that it plans to reroute passenger flights over the Yellow Sea to avoid possible collisions with debris from a long-range rocket that North Korea plans to launch this month.
The Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs said it made the decision after learning that North Korea had informed China and Singapore of the flight path and other details of the launch.
North Korea told those nations the rocket would be launched in the morning and its debris would fall into the Yellow Sea and in waters east of the Philippines.
The International Maritime Organization said Monday that North Korea had informed it that it planned to launch a satellite between Dec. 10-22 during the hours of 7 a.m and noon. The North provided a list of dangerous coordinates where debris could fall.
South Korean officials said they will reroute six Korean Air flights. They also are considering whether to reroute or change the departure times of several Korean Air and Asiana Airlines flights to Manila.
In a defiant move expected to raise the stakes of a global standoff over its missile and nuclear programs, the North announced Saturday that it would launch a rocket mounted with a polar-orbiting Earth observation satellite this month.
The United States considers North Korea's rocket launches to be veiled covers for tests of technology for long-range missiles designed to strike the United States. Such tests are banned by the U.N. Security Council which has imposed two rounds of sanctions on the North following its nuclear tests.
It would be North Korea's second launch attempt under leader Kim Jong Un, who took power following his father Kim Jong Il's death nearly a year ago. The embarrassing misfire of its last rocket eight months ago earned the country widespread international condemnation.
The Korean Committee for Space Technology said the launch was a request of late leader Kim Jong Il. He died on Dec. 17, 2011, and North Koreans are expected to mark that date this year with some fanfare.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged North Korea "not to take any further provocative actions that will heighten tension in the region" after the failed launch in April, and U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said Monday "his view has not changed on the matter."
Ban called the failed launch "deplorable" because it defied international opinion, violated a U.N. Security Council ban, "and was a threat to international stability," Nesirky told reporters at U.N. headquarters in New York.
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