A banner in China’s Liaoning Province, Dandong City celebrating the opening of
twice-weekly flights between Dandong and Pyongyang. Image: Daily NK.
Provincial Chinese authorities in Liaoning Province have been promoting new charter plane flights direct from China’s Dandong to North Korea’s capital city of Pyongyang. However, local sources in China report that Chinese residents are largely indifferent to the announcement.
According to a North Korean source in the local area, the advertising campaign is centered around the area near Dandong ’s train station. Some of the banners read, “Celebrate! New international flight route opening between Dandong and Pyongyang!” Dandong Airport’s homepage is also listing flight prices and times.
Liaoning province authorities are promoting the route’s low prices and short travel time as advantages for potential customers. One way fares are 800 yuan (approximately US $115), while round trip fares are 1,500 yuan (approximately $215), with the trip taking around 30 minutes. The Dandong-Pyongyang flight is listed as JS782, while the Pyongyang-Dandong flight is listed as JS781. However, the source notes that locals are unenthusiastic about flying with Air Koryo – North Korea’s state-owned carrier.
“Amongst themselves, residents are expressing concern about Air Koryo’s obsolete equipment, and wondering whether the company can guarantee passenger safety,” the source said during a telephone conversation with Daily NK on March 24. “People are sarcastically quipping, ‘North Korea has a special kind of charm that makes you worry.’”
Some are having trouble believing the airlines’ claim that the new line was opened because the number of people traveling back and forth between Pyongyang and Dandong is increasing.
A new bridge under construction on the Yalu River will link up China’s Dandong with North Korea’s Sinuiju, but has yet to be completed. Ever since the United States Justice Department sanctioned the Chinese company Liaoning Hongxiang on suspicion of evading US sanctions on North Korea, Dandong residents have become wary of engaging in business with North Koreans.
According to the source, Chinese residents in the area are saying that “Dandong has already been fooled multiple times by North Korea. Our residents don’t go to North Korea for vacations. Only naive people from the inner regions of China cross the border. So the pre-existing flights from Beijing to North Korea should suffice.”
Additionally, the new air route is also unpopular because Chinese residents are wary of North Korea’s continued obsession with nuclear weapons and missiles despite international condemnation, said an additional source close to North Korean affairs in China.
When the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 2270 in the wake of North Korea’s fourth nuclear test in March last year, UN member states began enacting policies banning North Korean airlines from access to their airports. Accordingly, Air Koryo currently only has access to Russia and China.
In regards to this, she said, “Chinese residents are asking why China is the only country with a conciliatory approach, especially considering that the entire world is united in their opposition to North Korea. People doubt whether Pyongyang would support China if the situation were reversed.”
Dandong’s Langtou International Airport announced on March 21 that services between Dandong and Pyongyang would begin on March 28th. These are the first chartered plane flights between the two cities. The chartered flights – which are owned by Air Koryo – will operate every Tuesday and Friday.