May 4, 2018 / 2:52 PM / 18 days ago

U.N. agency to consider North Korea request on new air routes to South

MONTREAL (Reuters) - United Nations aviation agency directors will visit North Korea next week to discuss an earlier request by Pyongyang to open new air routes to South Korea, the organisation said in a statement on Friday.

North Korea’s request to establish the new routes to South Korea is now under “consideration,” the Montreal-based International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) said.

“This request will be further discussed among other air navigation and safety matters,” during the visit by ICAO Asia and Pacific Regional Director Arun Mishra and Stephen Creamer, head of the agency’s Air Navigation Bureau.

According to its website, North Korea’s state-owned carrier Air Koryo flies to cities in Russia and China, two countries that maintain diplomatic relations with Pyongyang.

It’s the latest sign of practical reconciliation measures taken since North Korean and South Korean leaders met last month at their first historic summit in decades, where they signed a pledge to pursue peace on the peninsula.

The meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in was short of specifics and failed to clear up the question of whether Pyongyang is really willing to give up nuclear missiles that now threaten the United States. The White House has said the first meeting between the sitting US and North Korean leaders could take place in coming weeks.

In February, ICAO’s Asia and Pacific regional office in Bangkok received a letter from North Korea’s civil aviation administration asking to establish new air routes between the Pyongyang flight information region (FIR) and South Korea’s Incheon FIR.

Montreal-based ICAO cannot impose binding rules on governments, but wields clout through its safety and security standards which are approved by its 192 member states.

Reporting By Allison Lampert in Montreal. Additional reporting by Yara Bayoumy in Washington; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Susan Thomas

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