Air China suspends flights to North Korea

The suspension of the route halts one of the few worldwide flights to North Korea, just as tensions rise between it and United States, which recently put North Korea back on a list of state sponsors of terrorism.

U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to label the North as a "sponsor of terror" came nine years after George W. Bush, then the president, ordered removal of the North from the State Department's list of nations cited for egregious violations of norms of global behavior. North Korea's state-run organization, the Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee, released a separate statement, which called for Washington to immediately withdraw its decision. The response came shortly after China, the North's sole ally, also rejected as "wrong" new U.S. sanctions that targeted Chinese companies doing business with the pariah state.

Trump warned that the terror designation and sanctions announcement would be part of a series of moves over the next two weeks to reinforce his "maximum pressure campaign" against Kim Jong-Un's regime.

The decision was labelled a "serious provocation" by the North Korean regime. On Tuesday the USA unveiled its fresh sanctions which also targeted North Korean shipping, raising the pressure on the North to abandon its nuclear programme. And, according to United States officials, some Chinese-based banks and trading firms continue to do business with the North in defiance of UN sanctions and USA threats of unilateral measures.

Air China last cancelled flights to North Korea in April, citing low customer demand, but resumed them soon after.

More seriously, however, Trump during his recent swing to East Asian capitals sought to line up broad support for tough policies toward North Korea.

But North Korea is unlikely to give in to the sanctions and come back to the negotiation table anytime soon. One of his favorite comments is the US should have re-designated North Korea as a sponsor of terror "a long time ago" - that was a dig against Obama's policy of "strategic patience" in dealing with the North.

The latest US sanctions still leave open the question of how far Trump is willing to go to bring North Korea to the table.

Literally, it means North Korea would join Iran, Sudan and Syria on the list of state sponsors of terror.

North Korea will re-join Iran, Sudan, and Syria who are in the USA list of state terrorism, as these countries "repeatedly provided support for acts of worldwide terrorism".


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