North Korea is resuming limited commercial flights to China in a major move to reopen borders

North Korea has completed its first commercial flight since the start of the pandemic, marking a major step toward ending the strict border controls that have been in place throughout the pandemic.

“During the transition period of the summer and autumn flying season in 2023, China approved Air Koryo’s scheduled flight plans from Pyongyang to Beijing to Pyongyang and other passenger routes requested by the airline according to procedures,” said Wang Wenbin, a foreign ministry spokesperson.

Reuters reported that the next Air Koryo flight from Pyongyang landed in Beijing at around 9:17 am local time. Western travel agency Koryo Tours, which organizes tours to and throughout North Korea, confirmed that the trip is currently a special case aimed at bringing back citizens stranded in China.

“This flight is not a full resumption of the route yet, it is a special flight for Koreans only to bring people home again after years of being stuck abroad, and it is the same flights that seem likely to happen soon from Vladivostok,” said Simon Cockerell, managing director of the airline. Koryo Tours.

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China’s foreign ministry announced on Monday that it will allow flights between neighboring countries as it continues to ease heavy restrictions imposed during the pandemic.

Pyongyang Beijing trip

The status of an Air Koryo flight from North Korea’s capital Pyongyang (second from top) is shown on the dashboard at Beijing Capital International Airport on August 21, 2023. (Oliver Hotham/AFP via Getty Images/Getty Images)

However, the website for Beijing Capital International Airport now lists three flights from Pyongyang to Beijing each week — one every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday morning — according to the South China Morning Post.

Air Koryo plane

An Air Koryo plane at Beijing Capital Airport on August 22, 2023. North Korea’s first international commercial flight in three years landed in Beijing on August 22 after the country was largely sealed off from the outside world since 2023. (Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images/Getty Images)

RFA reported that train connections between border cities in North Korea and China will also resume this month, with the first rail freight shipments between the Chinese city of Dandong and the North Korean city of Sinuiju reportedly taking place in early August.

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The shipments will greatly help ease the severe economic and supply crisis that has gripped North Korea for years in its response to the pandemic. The situation became so grim that people starved to death due to the Great Famine, and many chose death over slow suffering.

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D Delta Airlines 41.61 -0.13 -0.31%
the American Airlines Group 14.83 -0.33 -2.18%
JBLU JetBlue Airways Corporation 6.20 -0.11 -1.74%
luv Southwest Airlines 31.51 -0.41 -1.27%
isiji EasyJet plc 5.47 +0.07 +1.39%

Trade initially resumed earlier this year along the train lines, but China shut it down again just a few months later after outbreaks in both countries.

An official from a trade organization in North Pyongan Province told Radio Free Asia that all trading companies have received orders from the Central Committee to “prepare import and export materials for loading.”

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“They have been ordering goods from their Chinese counterparts to import building materials and basic food. They are trying to secure foreign currency to pay for the imports,” he added.

China is stranded due to COVID-19

Two North Korean men (left and second right) walk through the arrivals section of Beijing Capital Airport after the arrival of Air Koryo Flight JS151 on August 22, 2023. (Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images/Getty Images)

despite of Declaring victory over COVID-19 Last year, North Korea did not reopen its doors at the same rate as other countries, and it only welcomed its first foreign delegation last month. The reclusive kingdom hosted Russian defense officials and members of the Central Committee of the Chinese Politburo during its 70th anniversary celebrations.

“China and the DPRK are friendly neighbors linked by mountains and rivers. Our parties and the two countries have a good tradition of friendly exchanges,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Mao Ning.

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“This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Korean War armistice,” he added. “The visit of a high-ranking Chinese delegation to the DPRK and the celebration of the occasion show the great importance that both sides attach to our bilateral relations.”

Fox News Digital’s Timothy Nirouzi contributed to this report.

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