March 28, 2013 12:30
A senior North Korean official has assured Chinese tour operators that there will be no war on the Korean Peninsula. The assurance came at a time when the North is ratcheting up its belligerent rhetoric.
Visiting Xian in Shaanxi Province in mid-March, Kim To-jun of the North's General Bureau of Tourism, told Chinese tour operators, "Don't worry. There'll be no war on the Korean Peninsula, so send as many tourists as possible."
The regime is expected to resume package tours in July via non-stop flights between Xian and Pyongyang. The route opened in July 2011 and the package tours started a year later.
A source speculated, "It seems that the North is trying to make money by assuring Chinese people that there is no danger of war, while the threats against South Korea are mostly for domestic political purposes.”
According to a travel agency in Xian, it is currently possible to book a North Korean tour leaving Beijing every Monday. A five-day tour of Pyongyang, Wonsan, Mt. Kumgang, and Kaesong costs 5,780 yuan (approximately W1.03 million).
North Korea is in desperate need of hard currency amid tighter international sanctions.
One tourist train service that takes visitors from Tumen in the Chinese province of Jilin to North Hamgyong Province in the North will resume in late April, Yanbian online radio reported on March 20.
North Korean flag carrier Air Koryo recently decided to increase the number of regular flights between Beijing and Pyongyang from three per week to five on April 12.
The total number of flights between Beijing and Pyongyang will increase from six to eight per week, including three offered by Air China. According to China's National Tourism Administration, the number of Chinese tourists to the North jumped 47.9 percent from 131,100 in 2010 to 193,900 in 2011.
A diplomatic source said, "Since the North's nuclear test last month, China has been pressuring the North by doing everything by the book in areas like customs clearance, financial transactions and labor. But Beijing doesn't seem to be causing any trouble in the tourism sector yet."
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