As North Korea’s national airline- Air Koryo- was set to make its first commercial flight in over three years, it was abruptly cancelled at the last minute. The country has been closed off from the outside world since early 2020 when it shut its borders following the Covid pandemic.
The flight was cancelled almost two hours after its scheduled arrival. A signboard in the terminal signalled it had been cancelled prompting groans of disappointment, AFP reported. With the chance to witness some of the isolated North’s first international travellers in years was over in just moments.
Beijing airport customer service said that Air Koryo had not given a reason for the cancellation, AFP reported. On the cancellation, China’s foreign ministry said that it had approved restarting commercial flights between Beijing and Pyongyang.
“During the summer and autumn flight season… the Chinese side approved flight plans for passengers such as the Pyongyang-Beijing and Beijing-Pyongyang routes of Air Koryo,” foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said.
Is North Korea becoming flexible about border controls?
After three years of isolation, there are increasing signs North Korea may be becoming more flexible on border controls. Last month, Chinese and Russian officials attended a military parade in the North Korean capital- the first foreign dignitaries to visit the country in years. Last week, Pyongyang allowed a delegation of athletes to attend a taekwondo competition in Kazakhstan as they crossed the land border into China before travelling on to Beijing.
Seoul’s Unification Ministry, which manages relations with the North, told AFP that there was “absolutely nothing we are aware of” regarding the cancellation of the flight.
“There have been various signs regarding North Korea’s reopening of its borders,” an official said, adding, “But it is difficult to determine yet whether it is a full-scale opening of the border or a fairly limited and controlled opening.”