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With the situation heating up and North Korea threatening missile tests over Japan, I am extremely worried about several things:

  1. Air traffic safety due to North Korea (obviously) not announcing tests/locations, and potentially the missile crossing paths with airplanes
  2. North Korea intentionally aiming missiles at airplanes
  3. The Lockerbie bombing came to mind. I will be flying JAL round trip, which now I'm thinking would be a prime target being the flag carrier.
  4. North Korea detonating a missile over Japan while I'm there (I will be there around a month)

Are these worries legitimate or am I just overthinking? Help!

  • Hey Claire, It's hard to say if anything will happen. I think the chance is very very very small, altough, sadly these things happen. As I don't think we can answer this question can be answered with certainty, I'm voting that this question is opinion based. Now, if I was you, I would take the trip anyway. I'm guessing(!!) the chance of something bad happening is soo small. – Joren Vandamme Dec 5 '19 at 10:33
  • Thanks! Yes okay I am taking the trip – Claire D Dec 5 '19 at 16:42
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Yes, you're overthinking. The name of the game in North Korea is brinksmanship: they push the envelope to extract concessions, but are not stupid enough to commit an actual act of war, like shooting down a passenger airplane.

Also, North Korea does not test anti-aircraft missiles, but ballistic missiles aimed at specific targets on the ground. These fly high and far (>1000 km altitude is not uncommon), way beyond the cruising altitude of passenger airplanes (10 km).

Finally, not only do Japanese aircraft do not enter North Korean airspace, but routes to SE Asia don't fly near the country. Here's Tokyo to Bangkok (map courtesy gcmap.com), which doesn't even cross South Korea (the peninsula at the top right).

enter image description here

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  • Thank you for your explanation, made me quite a bit calmer! – Claire D Dec 5 '19 at 16:41
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    Don't most aircraft avoid North Korean airspace? (Except for those flying to Pyongyang, of course) – xuq01 Dec 7 '19 at 17:43

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