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ROK planes will avoid DPRK's airspace

Airlines from the Republic of Korea are rerouting their flights away from the airspace of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, hours after the North threatened Seoul's passenger planes amid heightened tensions on the divided peninsula.

The move -- which will cost carriers thousands of dollars on each flight -- comes after Pyongyang warned in state-run media that it cannot guarantee security for South Korean civil airplanes flying near its airspace and accused the United States and South Korea of attempting to provoke a nuclear war by hosting upcoming joint military drills.

It did not say what kind of danger South Korean planes would face or whether the threat meant the North would shoot down planes. South Korea urged the North to immediately retract the threat.

"The military threat against civil airplanes' normal flights is a violation of international norms and an inhumane act that cannot be justified under any circumstances," Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Ho-nyeon told reporters.

He indicated the warning may have been issued in order to clear the North's airspace before a possible missile launch, but declined to elaborate.

The DPRK announced last week that it is preparing to send a communications satellite into space but regional powers suspect the claim is a cover for the launch of a long-range missile capable of hitting Alaska.

The United Nations Command, the US-led body overseeing the armistice that ended fighting in the Korean War, called the North's threat to South Korean planes "entirely inappropriate."

Meanwhile, Asiana Airlines and Korean Air - South Korea's biggest airline and the world's largest international cargo carrier - said they will avoid the North's airspace.

"We plan to make our flight detour through Japanese airspace until the crisis is resolved," said Park Hyun-soo, deputy general manager of Asiana Airlines' operations control center. He said the rerouting will increase flight times by about 40 minutes and cost about 4 million won (US$2,500) per flight.


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