According to the UN's International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), North Korea is seeking permission to open up new air routes to South Korea.
It has been reported through various news sources that Pyongyang has sent a proposal to ICAO's regional office in Bangkok, Thailand for a "new air traffic services" route between Pyongyang and Incheon in South Korea.
The proposal includes the creation of a FIR (Flight Information Region), between the two Koreas. An FIR is assigned to an ICAO member to provide basic air traffic services are provided for the safe and efficient passage of flights.
"The issue of establishing a new flight route that the North has raised through the ICAO is being reviewed by (Seoul's) Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport," ministry spokesman Noh Kyu-duk told reporters.
Currently, North Korea has a limited number of international airlinks provided by national airline Air Koryo. Those destinations include a few cities in China and Russia to the capital Pyongyang. The only foreign airline to fly to North Korea was Air China, which suspended their flights last November citing a lack of demand.
One potential benefit for the new proposal could be other airlines using North Korean airspace on trans-Pacific flights, saving in fuel where most routes go around the country.
Even with the FIR, new flights can't operate until the UN lifts sanctions on the country. A South Korean government official was quoted in saying: “Even if a new airline route is created, it can’t actually be operated until UN sanctions have been lifted." Once that happens, he added that the infrastructure is ready for North to South Korea flights. “In terms of North Korea’s current airport, my understanding is that Pyongyang Sunan International Airport and Wonsan Kalma Airport would be usable immediately.”
The UN sanctions he refers to is Resolution 2270, adopted by the UN Security Council in March of 2016, put on strict sanctions on marine vessels and aircraft that have been visited North Korea, including mandatory inspections on cargo originating in or destined for the North.
The new developments come a long way from the political tensions that heated up last year. Not only could be a historic turning point, it could launch interest in more travel to North Korea and benefit airlines flying across the Pacific between Asia and North America.