South Korea's Government has ordered the country's airlines to bypass North Korean airspace on international flights after the reclusive leadership in Pyongyang said it could not guarantee the safety of civilian aircraft.

North Korea is upset over US-South Korean military exercises planned over 9-20 March. It said through the state-run Korea Central News Agency last night that "security cannot be guaranteed for South Korean civil airplanes flying through the territorial air of our side and its vicinity...while the military exercises are underway".

Aircraft have been flying through North Korean airspace since the late 1990s following a groundbreaking agreement reached by IATA and ICAO under which the Pyongyang Government collects overflight fees.

South Korea's Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime says in a statement on its website this morning that as a result of the North's comments Asiana Airlines and Korean Air will be required to bypass North Korean airspace and take longer routings through Japan's Flight Information Region.

It says an estimated 16 flights will be affected per day, 12 to the Americas and four to Russia. It adds that the longer routings will add between 15min and 40min and between 3 million won ($1,900) and 4 million won in additional costs per flight.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news