After a prolonged three-year closure due to the global Covid-19
pandemic, North Korea has at last unlocked its borders. The country's
national airline, Air Koryo, accomplished a significant milestone by
successfully executing its inaugural international commercial flight to
Beijing, China on 22 August.
Embarking from the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, Air Koryo's
flight JS151 touched down at Beijing's PEK Airport at 9:17 AM local
time. Initially scheduled for 21 August, the flight encountered a sudden
setback with a last-minute cancellation.
The specifics of the passengers aboard the inaugural Beijing flight
remains a mystery. It is speculated that the flight could have been
specially arranged to repatriate North Koreans stranded in China due to
the lengthy border closures.
China's civil aviation authority disclosed to Reuters that Air Koryo
is set to operate flights between Pyongyang and Beijing thrice a week,
specifically on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. This operational
schedule is anticipated to span from 26 March to 28 October. Curiously,
Air China, a former contender on this route, has yet to seek approval
for a resumption of services, as confirmed by relevant authorities.
In an upcoming development, Air Koryo is gearing up to extend its
eased border measures by introducing flights to Russia's Vladivostok on
Friday, 25 August.
The decision to seal North Korea's borders in 2020 was a decisive
response to the escalating threat of Covid-19 within the nation.
Gradually, over the past year, North Korea cautiously resumed select
cargo train and maritime traffic.
The nation recently welcomed official government delegations from
both Russia and China. Additionally, a symbolic step was taken when a
bus ferrying North Korean athletes to a Taekwondo competition in
Kazakhstan crossed the Chinese border.