North Korea’s Air Koryo makes first international flight since COVID

Flight to Beijing is the latest sign of easing travel restrictions in the isolated state.

Air Koryo
Air Koryo has carried out its first international commercial flight since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic [File: Wong Maye-E/AP]

North Korea has carried out its first commercial flight overseas since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic more than three years ago.

The Air Koryo flight from Pyongyang landed in Beijing on Tuesday shortly after 9am (1:00 GMT), according to tracking app Flight Master,

Air Koryo, North Korea’s flagship airline, last operated a commercial flight out of the country in early 2020, before Pyongyang imposed some of the world’s toughest border controls.

China’s foreign ministry said on Monday that the state carrier had been approved to resume flights with the country.

Air Koryo’s future schedule following the resumption of the service was not immediately clear.

Air Koryo has also scheduled flights to Russia’s Vladivostok for Friday, the Reuters news agency reported, citing a diplomatic source.

A previously-scheduled Air Koryo flight to Beijing was cancelled on Monday without any explanation.

North Korea has slowly eased restrictions on travel after spending the pandemic sealed off from other countries, including China, its neighbour, historical ally and main trading partner.

Chinese and Russian officials last month flew to Pyongyang to mark the 70th anniversary of the signing of the armistice that halted hostilities in the 1950-53 Korean War, marking the first-known visit by foreign dignitaries to the country since the pandemic.

Last week, North Korean athletes crossed the border into China on a bus en route to a taekwondo tournament in Kazakhstan.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies