China Suspends Flights to North Korea, Vessels and Aircraft Avoiding Area
In the latest escalation over what may be an imminent preemptive airstrike on North Korea by US warships now located just 300 miles away from the North Korean nuclear test site, moments ago China's national airline, Air China, announced it was suspending flights from Beijing to the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, from late on Friday, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said. It did not say why the flights, which operate on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, were being suspended.
In the report published on its website, CCTV did not cite a source while according to Reuters, Air China could not immediately be reached for comment after business hours. The last flight between the two cities took place on Friday, with the return flight to Beijing arriving in the early evening, the broadcaster said. Air China began regular flights between the two countries in 2008 but the flights were frequently cancelled because of unspecified problems, the broadcaster said. China is North Korea's sole major ally but it disapproves of the North's weapons programs, and its confrontations with the United States and its Asian allies, and it has supported U.N. sanctions against it.
Following repeated missile tests that drew international criticism, China banned all imports of North Korean coal on Feb. 26, cutting off the country's most important export product. North Korea's army vowed a 'merciless' response to any US provocation, the official news agency reported Friday, as tensions soar over Pyongyang's rogue nuclear program.