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Tour operators halt travels as tensions rise

(China Daily)

09:26, April 11, 2013

Some Chinese tour operators have halted travel to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea over rising safety concerns, but the cancellations were the travel agents' and tourists' own decisions, the Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.

Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said the ministry has noticed the cancellations, but "at present, at the China-DPRK border, business is as usual".

"Recently, some Chinese travel agents and tourists, on seeing the tense situation on the Korean Peninsula, cancelled or postponed their travel plans to the DPRK," he added.

Local travel agents in Dandong, Liaoning province, said Chinese authorities in the northeastern city had told agencies to halt overland tourism to the DPRK, but the city's tourism bureau said it has not received any such order.

"We have not received any notification from the higher authorities to halt tours to the DPRK, and we will not attempt to suspend them, either", said a source at the bureau.

"Some travel agencies cancel tours due to lack of tourists in April because it is the slow season for tourism ... The number of visitors to the DPRK may increase in May."

A travel agent named Wang at Dandong China International Travel Service said the agency has not received notification to halt tours, and it is still organizing group tours to the DPRK.

Because Pyongyang will celebrate one of its most important festivals on Monday - the Day of the Sun, birthday of the country's founder, Kim Il-sung, the grandfather of current leader Kim Jong-un - her agency stopped sending tourists to the country this week, and the tours will be back to normal next week, she said.

Chen Haiwei, a manager at Tumenjiang International Travel Agency, said the agency's tours to the DPRK are still operating as normal, and it will send a tour group to the country at the end of this month.

The agency usually sends two groups a week during the busy season for DPRK tours, and every group has 30 to 40 tourists, she said.

However, a travel agent in Dandong told Reuters by telephone: "All (tourist) travel to North Korea has been stopped, and I've no idea when it will restart".

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