published : 2023-08-24

North Korea Signal Border Reopening with Beijing Flight: A Post-Pandemic Development

Despite three years of stringently imposed COVID-19 restrictions, details about the conditions in North Korea remain unclear

An aerial shot of a North Korean commercial jet, an Air Koryo Tupolev Tu-204, taking off from Beijing - taken with a Nikon D850

For almost three continuous years, North Korea shut its doors to the world due to stringent COVID-19 restrictions. Today, however, a new sign indicates a change in course. A North Korean commercial jet, an Air Koryo Tupolev Tu-204, was spotted taking off from Beijing, the heart of diplomatic ally China.

These Russian-made jets, with a capacity for 210 passengers, made their landing in Beijing early Tuesday morning. Following their brief touch-down, the aircraft returned to the skies at about 1:30 p.m. local time.

Churning the rumor mill, China confirmed its approval of a regular flight plan between North Korean Air Koryo and Beijing. According to Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin, the arrangement of any specific flight would be subject to the Chinese competent authority's approval.

A close-up candid of U.S. President Joe Biden in discussion during the summit, signaling a serious tone - taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

As North Korea's closest diplomatic friend, China is an essential provider of food and fuel aid. This aid is particularly crucial for a country grappling with economic turmoil arising from a mixture of natural disasters and mismanagement.

Despite these developments, the internal conditions within North Korea remain a mystery. The government's iron-fisted control over information and exclusion of foreign diplomats and media offers little insight into everyday life within the country's borders.

These new signs of openness coincide with a recent meeting between leaders of Japan, South Korea, and U.S. President Joe Biden. At their historic summit near Washington, they agreed to expand both security and economic ties. Despite China's increasing claim in South China Sea, both sides emphasized that the summit 'was not about China.',

An evocative dusk photo capturing the Korean peninsula seen from a distance, hinting at the change and possibility - taken with a Sony Alpha a7R II

President Biden later announced the 'Camp David Principles,' prioritizing communication between the nations in response to threats. These principles align with growing concerns about North Korea's well-documented missile and nuclear threat capacity. Despite being diplomatically isolated and food insecure, Pyongyang continues to make worrisome strides with its missile program.

It appears these latest developments will fuel the ongoing struggle between global powers attempting to contain North Korea's ambitious and dangerous military aspirations. As we await further details, the world will be watching carefully to see how these new flight connections might herald a change on the Korean peninsula.