A Korean Airlines Boeing 777 en route from Vancouver, B.C., to Seoul diverted on Tuesday to a Canadian Forces base on Vancouver Island under escort by two U.S. fighter jets after the airline's U.S. call center received a call about a bomb on board.
TORONTO — A Korean Air Boeing 777 en route from Vancouver, B.C., to Seoul diverted on Tuesday to a Canadian Forces base on Vancouver Island under escort by two U.S. fighter jets after the airline’s U.S. call center received a call about a threat on board.
Korean Air said in a release that 25 minutes after takeoff from Vancouver International Airport the call center received the threat. The Canadian National Post newspaper reported that Alisa Gloag, a spokeswoman for Vancouver International Airport, said that Korean Airlines Flight 72 departed at 2:35 p.m. local time but had to turn around with an unspecified emergency.
The crew turned back off the north coast of B.C. after a bomb threat was made in a telephone call to the airline’s Los Angeles office, a Korean Air spokesman told CBC News.
Maj. Holly Apostoliuk, a Canadian spokeswoman for The North American Aerospace Defense Command, said two American fighter jets escorted the plane to Canada’s Comox air base, which is 70 miles outside Vancouver on the east coast of Vancouver Island.
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The Canadian Forces said in a news release that the flight was traveling from Vancouver International Airport and was diverted to Comox at about 5:30 p.m.
Gloag, with the Vancouver airport, said flight 72 with 149 passengers landed safely at Comox about three hours after it took off. She could not confirm any other details.
The incident comes at a time of heightened tension on the Korean Peninsula. North Korea plans to launch a rocket sometime between Thursday and Monday, and airlines have been scrambling to reroute flights away from the rocket’s path.
North Korea said Tuesday that it had completed preparations to launch a satellite into orbit, as South Korea and other Asian nations told their airlines and ships to change their routes to avoid the North Korean rocket.
South Korea had previously refrained from issuing such directions while it joined its allies, particularly the United States, in urging North Korea to cancel the launching.
They said it violated a U.N. Security Council resolution prohibiting North Korea from testing intercontinental ballistic missile technology.
But the North has remained defiant and has placed the three-stage Unha-3 rocket at its launching pad.
“All the assembly and preparations of the satellite launch are done,” The Associated Press quoted Ryu Gum Chol, a senior North Korean space official, as saying during a news conference for visiting foreign journalists in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang.
Ryu said North Korea would launch the satellite as scheduled.
As North Korea looked determined to press ahead, Philippine Airlines said it would change the paths of a dozen of its flights from the United States, Japan and South Korea so that they could stay clear from the North Korean rocket’s trajectory.
Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways also planned to reroute flights connecting Tokyo to Manila, Jakarta, Indonesia and Singapore.
South Korea’s Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs said that it had ordered 22 Korean Air and Asiana Air flights to the Philippines to make detours between Thursday and Monday. Korean Air will also redirect two flights connecting Beijing and the South Korean island of Jeju.
North Korea told international aviation authorities that its rocket would blast off from its launching station near its northwestern border with China between 7 a.m. and noon and fly southward.
Its first-stage section is expected to fall in the sea about 90 nautical miles off Kunsan, a city on the South Korean west coast. The second-stage section is expected to hit the waters east of the Philippines.
The Philippines and South Korea urged fishing boats and other ships to avoid waters where rocket debris may fall. The South Korean ministry said it would broadcast warnings to all domestic and international ships traveling near the splashdown zones.
In Washington, Jay Carney, the White House spokesman, warned that if the North went ahead with the satellite launching, the United States would probably cancel promised food aid shipments and would “continue to do the things that we have been doing in the past to isolate and pressure North Korea.”