A commercial airline crew witnessed the flight of an enormous North Korean missile believed capable of reaching Washington, D.C., Cathay Pacific officials confirmed Monday.
“Be advised, we witnessed the DPRK missile blow up and fall apart near our current location,” the crew of Cathay Pacific Flight 893 reported Wednesday, according to a company message obtained by the South China Morning Post. The company referred to North Korea by the abbreviation of its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
On Monday, the company said in a statement that the San Francisco-to-Hong Kong flight was “far from the event location” and continued flying normally after the missile reentered the atmosphere.
The airline said it does not plan to change its flight routes, even as North Korea seems intent on testing ever more technologically advanced missiles while it trades threats with the United States about a possible nuclear conflict.
The launch of the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile was the latest — and the largest and farthest flying — in tests by North Korea this year.
It launched just before 3 a.m. Wednesday, as The Washington Post previously reported, from a mammoth truck whose tires were nearly as tall as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
It flew for nearly an hour on a vertical trajectory that took it 2,800 miles above the Earth — a thrust that North Korea and international experts say could have taken it to the U.S. East Coast if the missile's angle were adjusted.
North Korea claims the new Hwasong-15 can carry a heavy warhead, although analysts say the one tested had an extremely light payload that allowed it to fly farther. And the country has much work to do before it can — as it has threatened — land a nuclear warhead in the United States.
The missile tested Wednesday crashed into the waters off Japan, 620 miles from the launch site in North Korea.
That's when the crew of Cathay Pacific Flight 893 “reported a sighting of what is suspected to be the re-entry of the recent DPRK test missile,” the airline said in its statement.
Pilots on two Korean Air planes reported seeing flashes in the sky that were believed to be the same missile, according to ABC News.
Cathay Pacific's statement said the company is communicating with other airlines and authorities about the encounter but has no plans to alter its flight paths.
The airline says it has no video of the missile, according to CNN.