China opens new air routes, tourism to North Korea after Kim Jong-Un visit

by WorldTribune Staff, June 21, 2018

China is loosening sanctions on North Korea after Kim Jong-Un’s most recent visit to Beijing, a report said.

Signs of China’s easing of sanctions on the North are already noticeable in the fields of aviation and tourism, Yonhap said in a June 21 report.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un and his wife Ri Sol-Ju arrive in Beijing. / KCNA via Reuters

Kim’s visit to Beijing earlier this week to meet with Chinese supreme leader Xi Jinping touched off speculation that the two countries will resume economic cooperation.

Authorities of Xian, the capital of China’s Shaanxi Province, decided to open a direct aviation route to Pyongyang in July.

“China appears to be preparing for large-scale economic cooperation projects with the opening of additional aviation routes with North Korea. The move also seems intended to display the normalization of their bilateral relationship to the outside,” a source told Yonhap.

With the inauguration of the Pyongyang-Xian route, the North’s flag carrier Air Koryo will fly to five Chinese cities, including Beijing, Shenyang, Shanghai and Chengdu, the report said.

Yonhap noted that an influx of Chinese tourists has provided much-needed hard currency to the North, whose China-bound exports of marine products, textiles and natural resources have been stymied by UN sanctions.

“There is much demand for group tours for North Korea, because of rising Chinese interest in the North after a series of its summits with China, the U.S. and South Korea. A lot of sightseers are expected to depart from Xian for Pyongyang,” the source told Yonhap.

Meanwhile, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said “detailed negotiations” on the dismantling of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program have not yet begun. “I wouldn’t expect that at this point,” he said.

Asked on June 20 if he could “put his finger on” any steps North Korea had taken at denuclearization, Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon: “No, I’m not aware of that.”

President Donald Trump said soon after his meeting with Kim Jong-Un in Singapore that national security adviser John Bolton “and our entire team,” would “go over the details and to get this stuff done.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed: “I will be the person who takes the role of driving this process forward. I don’t know exactly what the timing will be for our next conversation with North Korea. I would anticipate it will be fairly quickly after we return to our home countries. I don’t know exactly what form that will take but I’m very confident that by some time in the next week or so we will begin the engagement.”

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on June 19 that although the U.S. had been in touch with Pyongyang there was nothing to announce on Pompeo’s travel plans.

Bolton said on June 20 that “Pompeo and others” would be meeting North Korean counterparts, adding “we’ll find out soon enough whether they’ve made this strategic decision.”

“They’ve said they want complete denuclearization and now we’ll have to talk about how to achieve that and I think you will see diplomatic engagement proceed very quickly,” Bolton told Fox News.

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