North Korea’s national airline Air Koryo will begin operating a new internal route from June 6, according to tourism sources in the country.
The new flight route will operate once a week from Uiju in Sinuiju, in the country’s northeast on the border with China to the capital city Pyongyang.
“The new route is a domestic flight, once a week … (it) goes from Pyongyang to Uiju and back again on the same day, (a) 40-minute flight,” Simon Cockerell, general manager of Koryo Tours told NK News.
“It’s apparently due to start quite soon using An-24 aircraft,” Dave Thompson, from Juche Travel Services added.
It’s currently unclear who the new route’s customers will be. The 38-capacity plane could be a quick way for North Korean residents to move between the border and the capital, or be aimed at Chinese tourists wanting a quicker way to visit Pyongyang.
“it is either a shuttle for people from the capital to go and do something … in Sinuiju, or for those wanting to dodge the train in getting to Dandong, or it is for tourists,” Cockerell continued.
The An-24 is a small propeller aircraft built between 1959-1972. There are three currently three in the Air Koryo inventory, though the DPRK military may also use modified versions of the plane.
The opening of a new internal route could raise eyebrows given the current sanctions against exporting aviation fuels to North Korea.
Under the recently passed UN Resolution 2270, member states cannot directly ship “aviation fuel, including aviation gasoline, naptha-type jet fuel, kerosene-type jet fuel, and kerosene-type rocket fuel” to the DPRK.
While an exception allows the sale of aviation fuels to Air Koryo’s planes when outside the DPRK, the new route will not cross the North’s borders, indicating the 5100 kg capacity fuel tank will have to be filled by domestic supplies.
“My understanding is that the North Koreans are able to refine some fuel themselves, probably not enough to field an air force in a war, but maybe enough to keep their commercial planes in the air at least, or to provide a safety backup and contingency,” Cockerell told NK News.
Earlier this month South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported Air Koryo had cancelled a weekly service to Bangkok. The news came after the Thai government said they would endorse UN Resolution 2270, authorizing sanctions against the North, in late April.
Featured image: NK News
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