Two of Japan's biggest airlines said they are taking alternate routes to avoid confronting the debris of a North Korean rocket. The move by All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines has come amid fervent preparations by Pyongyang for the upcoming launch of a suspected long-range rocket.
Both the operators said they would divert all their airplanes flying over the waters off the Philippines in order to avoid contact with the rocket debris. All the flights are expected to face slight delays as well.
Meanwhile, recent satellite images taken at the North's Sohae rocket launch site indicate the arrival of what is thought to fuel tankers. The suspected fuel activity, reported by Washington-based thinktank 38 North that constantly monitors the country, also suggests Pyongyang may blast off its so-called satellite-carrying rocket anytime soon.
"In the past, such activity has occurred one to two weeks prior to a launch event and would be consistent with North Korea's announced launch window," said the report from the thinktank. The satellite pictures were taken on 3 and 4 February.
Tensions in the region escalated after North Korea notified UN agencies that it is planning to launch an Earth observation satellite anytime between 8 and 25 February.
The first stage will fall into the waters off the west coast of South Korea while the second stage will find the waters near the Philippines if the rocket is successfully launched by the North as planned. The North's announcement of the launch has angered its adversaries, including the US, Japan and South Korea, as all of them warned Pyongyang to scale back its activities.