20:56 GMT26 November 2020
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    North Korea has informed the United Nations that it will discontinue its unannounced missile tests as well as all intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) tests because they have completed their nuclear arms development program.

    The UN International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), based out of Canada, made the announcement in a statement Friday after its representatives returned from the North Korean capital of Pyongyang. They were there to discuss Pyongyang's request to create new air routes through North and South Korean airspace, which the United Nations is now considering. 

    North Korean Deputy Director General Ri Yong Son said these tests were finished because the country's "national nuclear arms program was complete," according to the ICAO statement.

    Currently, airlines use roundabout routes to avoid the North's airspace over fears that an unannounced missile test might accidentally strike a passing airliner. Britain, France, Germany and the US had advised airlines to avoid the area, known as the Pyongyang Flight Information Region (FIR).

    ​North Korea gave prior warnings of missile tests until around 2014, when they gradually stopped announcing them, says Mark Zee of the Flight Service Bureau, which advises airlines on safety. Zee told Reuters that by 2016, airlines just avoided North Korean airspace altogether.

    According to Zee, North Korea's guarantee that they'd start giving prior warning again would probably be enough for airspace regulators to stop urging avoidance of the country's airspace.

    "We received a solid assurance from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea [DPRK, also known as North Korea] that they will not be engaging in activities hazardous for aviation without full advanced notice for the other states in the region and that they would coordinate that activity to ensure that we could retain safety," said Stephen Creamer, ICAO's Air Navigation Bureau director, according to a Reuters report published Thursday. 

    ICAO Regional Director Arun Mishra said that "it's always a possibility" that international flights will resume over North Korea's airspace. "We're continuing towards establishing a more healthy relationship," he said, according to Reuters.

    According to a spokesperson for the International Air Transport Association who spoke to Reuters, the trade group supports the North Korean effort to improve air travel efficiency. That includes a "direct air route between North Korea and South Korea," the representative said.

    The country's missile tests in 2017 outpaced tests in all other years that their program was operative, but so far none have been launched in 2018 amid warming relations between the DPRK and South Korea, as well as the United States.


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