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N. Korean carrier to start direct Shanghai flights

SHANGHAI (AFP) -- North Korea's carrier said Tuesday it would offer twice-weekly flights between Shanghai and Pyongyang starting next month, in a sign the secretive state is looking to attract more Chinese tourists.

Shanghai joins Beijing and Shenyang in the northeast as the third city in China to have regular flights to North Korea, the state-owned Air Koryo said in a statement to AFP.

The Shanghai flights to Pyongyang's Sunan International Airport, due to begin on July 1, will serve Chinese tour groups and are scheduled to run until at least October 25, it added.

China is North Korea's sole major ally and biggest trade partner, amid high tensions on the Korean peninsula over Pyongyang's nuclear drive.

The reclusive state is desperately poor after decades of isolation and bungled economic policies. Huge numbers of its estimated 24 million people suffer inadequate nutrition, aid agencies say.

It is in need of foreign investment, and has slowly expanded its tourism industry, offering trips to beaches and even home stays in several towns to Chinese and Western tourists alike.

North Korea's carrier only operates regular flights to one other country -- Russia's Vladivostok.

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