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North Korean airline plans new route to China's Xian

North Korea's national airline Air Koryo plans to open a new route linking Pyongyang and Xian in China, a staff member said Thursday, in the latest sign of the nuclear-armed state's possible emergence from isolation.

   An Air Koryo representative told AFP "there is a plan" for flights to the central Chinese city, a major tourist destination famous for its ancient Terracotta Warriors.

   But the staffer said he "did not know" whether the route would begin in July, as reported by the Xian Evening News daily, which cited Shaanxi Province's official tourism board.

North Korea`s leader Kim Jong-un. Yonhap
North Korea`s leader Kim Jong-un. Yonhap

   With the launch of the new route, Xian is set to become the fifth Chinese city with a direct flight to Pyongyang after Beijing, Shenyang, Shanghai and Chengdu, according to the newspaper.

   "The opening of this route will make it more convenient and efficient to travel from Xian to Pyongyang and furthermore satisfy the enthusiasm of Xian citizens travelling to Pyongyang," the daily said.

   "The market reacted strongly when Xian successfully opened a charter flight from Xian to Pyongyang around 2010."

   The report came a day after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un concluded a two-day visit to Beijing, the country's sole major ally, the week after his historic summit with US President Donald Trump in Singapore.

   North Korea has been hit by a raft of UN sanctions over its nuclear and missile tests, but the US has offered relief from the punitive measures if its gives up its arsenal.

   China is by far the biggest source of tourists for the North, with direct flights and a long land border connecting the neighbours, and tens of thousands believed to visit every year.

   China's state-owned carrier Air China resumed flights to the North Korean capital in June after a suspension of over six month.