North Korea opened the capital’s new international airport terminal in July 2015, hailing it as a showcase of leader Kim Jong-Un’s “unremitting efforts” to ensure the country’s air transport links came up to world standard.

A delegation from Russia’s federal civil aviation agency Rosaviatsia visited North Korea last week, and met with DPRK Civil Aviation Administration to discuss the feasibility of expanding air traffic between the two countries, specifically the capitals – Moscow and Pyongyang.

Rosaviatsia reportedly sent offers to the Aeroflot and its Sakhalin-based subsidiary Aurora to assess their willingness and readiness to launch flights to Pyongyang, according to Kommersant, citing unnamed sources.

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Currently, the only direct commercial air connection between the two countries is the twice weekly flights linking Vladivostok and Pyongyang by North Korea’s state-owned flag carrier Air Koryo, which only resumed this August after all flights were cancelled in 2020 because of the COVID pandemic.

Industry sources told Kommersant that most passengers from Pyongyang were construction workers seeking work in Russia or returning home after completing their contracts.

Aurora’s CEO Konstantin Sukhorebrik told Kommersant of their “theoretical readiness” to fly to North Korea.

The news site also referred to experts who suggested that the users of the flights would be mostly business travelers although there had been some interest shown in possible tourism.

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The same sources said that even then traffic between Moscow and Pyongyang would be unlikely to exceed a few thousand people a year.

Tour operators had not received proposals in relation to such tours which in the past had been relatively small scale, with official tour operators organizing trips for groups of around 10-15 people every six months.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recommended last month that Russian tourists should consider vacationing in North Korea.

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This seems unlikely as the few dozen who have traditionally visited the country each year contrast heavily with, for instance, the 4.6 million Russians who visited Turkey in 2022.

“In the new foreign policy realities, Russia is forming new partnerships, the construction and development of which without direct flights from Moscow is not very comfortable,” Oleg Panteleyev, head of the AviaPort aviation think tank, told Kommersant.

“The main interest in such flights, from business and political circles, is in Moscow.”

Panteleyev also said that because passenger numbers were likely to be small, Russian airlines do not have narrow-body long-haul aircraft capable of flying non-stop between Moscow and Pyongyang and there would not be enough demand to justify using larger planes.

He said that he expected flights would, therefore, have to connect through Vladivostok, which might not be popular with businessmen.

Russia, desperately in search of any sort of ally is believed to have signed a widely condemned arms deal with North Korea in October although Moscow continues to deny it.

This is another step towards cementing the relationship. It follows the visit by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to Pyonyang in July and the visit to Russia by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, by armored train, in September

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