North Korea’s Air Koryo Resumes International Flights with Beijing Route, Allowing North Koreans to Return

After more than three and a half years of border closures due to the Covid-19 pandemic, North Korea’s flagship carrier, Air Koryo, has finally resumed its international flights. The JS151 flight, operated by a Tupolev Tu-204 aircraft, departed Pyongyang and landed at Beijing Capital Airport on Tuesday morning. While the exact number of passengers on board remains unclear, the check-in counter at Beijing airport was reportedly packed with North Korean travelers, eagerly returning home.

The reopening of the Pyongyang-Beijing route comes as a relief for North Koreans who have been stranded abroad. Travel agency Koryo Tours revealed that the flight was primarily intended to facilitate the return of North Koreans to their home country. In recent weeks, limited international passenger travel has gradually resumed in North Korea. Previously, a group of North Korean athletes traveled to neighboring Kazakhstan for the Taekwondo world championships, and foreign delegations from Russia and China visited Pyongyang to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Korean War armistice. These instances marked the first known entry of foreign groups into North Korea since 2020.

The resumption of Air Koryo flights to Beijing was approved by the Chinese foreign ministry on Monday. The flight’s timing coincides with the easing of Covid-related travel restrictions and the gradual reopening of international borders in several countries. While the exact criteria for travel approval and entry requirements for North Koreans remain unknown, the fact that Air Koryo has resumed international operations suggests a positive shift in the country’s handling of the pandemic.

The significance of this development extends beyond the realm of travel and illustrates the improving relations between North Korea and China. The resumption of Air Koryo flights to Beijing can be seen as a positive indication of increased diplomatic cooperation between the two countries. It also highlights the enduring ties between China and North Korea, which have historically been crucial for North Korea’s economic survival and political stability.

However, despite the positive implications, there are several factors to consider and be careful about regarding this news. Firstly, the reopening of international travel by Air Koryo does not necessarily indicate a complete relaxation of Covid-related restrictions in North Korea. The country remains highly secretive, and extensive information is still unavailable to the outside world. It is essential to exercise caution and avoid assuming that the resumption of flights signifies a return to normalcy.

Additionally, the exact motivations behind the reopening of the Pyongyang-Beijing route remain unclear. While the primary purpose seems to be facilitating the return of North Koreans, there might be underlying political or economic considerations at play. It is crucial to remain attentive to further developments and analyze the broader context to fully comprehend the implications of this decision.

Furthermore, the resumption of Air Koryo flights raises questions about the safety measures and protocols implemented by North Korea to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Given the country’s isolation and limited access to vaccines, concerns regarding the potential transmission of the virus persist. It is vital to closely monitor any updates on North Korea’s pandemic response and assess the risks associated with international travel to and from the country.

In conclusion, the resumption of international flights by Air Koryo, specifically the reopening of the Pyongyang-Beijing route, signifies a positive step towards normalizing travel amidst the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. The news highlights the return of stranded North Koreans and the improving relations between North Korea and China. However, caution must be exercised, as the exact details of the reopening, the broader implications, and the pandemic situation within North Korea remain unclear. It is essential to stay informed, consider the underlying factors, and monitor any further developments in this evolving scenario.