North Korea’s first commercial flight lands in Beijing after three years’ hiatus

North Korea

BEIJING (Reuters): An Air Koryo passenger flight from North Korea landed at Beijing Capital Airport on Tuesday morning, according to tracking app Flight Master, in what would be the first commercial flight from North Korea since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

The flight, JS151, arrived at 9:17 a.m. (0117 GMT), shortly ahead of its scheduled time. It wasn’t immediately clear who was on the flight.

The Chinese foreign ministry said on Monday that Beijing had approved North Korea’s state carrier Air Koryo resuming flights to China more than three years after they stopped amid COVID-19 restrictions, amid signs of increased contact between North Korea and its neighbour and biggest trading partner.

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The Civil Aviation Administration of China did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the future frequency of Air Koryo flights to China and when Chinese state carrier Air China may resume flying its North Korea-China routes.

Cargo train and ship traffic has slowly increased over the past year, but North Korea has only just begun to allow some international passenger travel.

Chinese and Russian government delegations flew to Pyongyang last month and last week buses carrying North Korean athletes to a taekwondo tournament in Kazakhstan crossed the border into China.

Air Koryo has also scheduled flights to Vladivostok on Friday, a diplomat told Reuters, in what would be its first flights to Russia since the pandemic.

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