On Monday, China made an announcement indicating that it has authorized the restart of commercial air travel between Beijing and Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea. This event holds notable importance as it signifies the first instance of permitting such flights after North Korea shut its borders in the early months of 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Wang Wenbin, the spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry, mentioned in a routine press briefing that, “For the upcoming summer and autumn flight period, the Chinese authorities have given their approval to flight schedules for routes including Pyongyang-Beijing and Beijing-Pyongyang, both operated by Air Koryo.”
But as Air Koryo was set to return to the Chinese skies, there was an abrupt cancellation of flights. North Korea’s national airline, Air Koryo, was poised to launch its first commercial flight in over three years on Monday, August 21.
This flight, designated as JS151, was expected to arrive at Beijing’s Capital International Airport at 9:50 AM. However, in a major disappointment, the flight was unexpectedly canceled at the last moment.
North Korea’s seclusion since 2020
North Korea has remained secluded from the global community since early 2020 when it took the decision to seal its borders in response to the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus. The sudden cancellation of Air Koryo’s flight raised numerous questions.
Representatives from the airline offered no specific reason for the abrupt change in plans, media reports said.
China’s foreign ministry, when queried about the cancellation, reportedly reiterated its approval for restarting commercial flights between the two capitals.
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After three years of isolation prompted by the pandemic, there are indications that Pyongyang may be gradually loosening its grip on border restrictions. The anticipated resumption of Air Koryo’s commercial flights was seen as a potential step toward re-engaging with the international community.