North Korea Airspace Risk
May 31 Update – More than just “another missile”
North Korea attempted to launch a new satellite. What was quite ‘incredible’ is the fact they. actually gave prior notice for the launch. It didn’t work and fell in the sea, which would be amusing, only it means they will probably try again soon.
Notam Z0291/23 valid May 30 – June 10 refers to a rocket launch, and provides some areas of potential falling debris. This debris could fall within quite broad window and the hazard areas are not limited to the Pyongyang FIR and so may cause issues for traffic routing in:
- East China Sea
- Philippine Sea
- Yellow Sea
- Sea of Japan (consistently potential threat from missile launches)
Traffic routing in the RJJJ/Fukuoka FIR should also be cautious due a warning from Japan suggesting they will fire missiles towards any satellite to debris which encroaches on their airspace. Japan have a Notam P2445/23 (RJJJ) also valid to June 10 warning of this and coordinates of expected debris areas and antiballistic missile “aiming points”. All VFR traffic is effectively banned during this period.
RKRR/Republic of Korea Notam Z0296/23 is valid May 31 – June 10 provides a similar warning, only with regards missiles (because North Korea do like to fire these a lot too).
Traffic routing in this region should:
- Follow ATC instructions at all times
- Maintain good listening watch
- Ensure they have backup comms in case of failure while routing in the region
- Regularly check for updated Notams
- Avoid the region listed in the coordinates
What is the risk?
Relations between North Korea and South Korea are tense, and South Korea’s relationship (including joint military exercises) with the USA further heightens these tensions. Heightened risk can be expected when these exercises take place, but some risk remains at all times.
- Regular unannounced missile launches
These usually fall outside the Japanese EEZ and do not cross or impact airspace where commercial aircraft operate
There is a risk of falling debris if operating within the ZKKP/Pyongynag FIR over the Sea of Japan
- Missile incursions in commercial airspace
Several missiles have incurred on the UHHH/Khabarovsk FIR and RJJJ/Fukuoka FIR, and a ballistic missile flew over Japan
- Drone risk
North Korea have been known to send drones into South Korean airspace
- Military traffic risk
Military traffic may be higher, particularly in RKSI/Seoul and RKSS/Gimpo
- Caution in Japanese Airspace should be taken, particularly during times of heightened risk as missiles and rockets may infringe on Japanese airspace
What are the warnings?
North Korea does not issue warnings or Notams advising of missile launches.
- South Korea issue notams when unannounced launches occur
- FAA produces notices and a KICZ Notam prohibiting against certain flights in all North Korean airspace including the oceanic region of the Pyongyang FIR, available here
- Other major states caution against operations in North Korean airspace
- Avoid the ZKKP/Pyongyang FIR or overflying any portion of North Korean Airspace
- Remain cautious in South Korean and Japanese airspace in the vicinity of the border, particularly during times of heightened activity
- Monitor South Korean notams for potential warnings
- Maintain a good listening watch on 121.5
- Monitor for military traffic
- Maintain good navigation standards, particularly during poor weather conditions to avoid inadvertent proximity to North Korean airspace during detours and diversions
- Monitor state warnings and cautions – EASA have withdrawn the CZIB for North Korea (this doesn’t mean the risk is withdrawn!)