The U.S. has reportedly blocked an effort by North Korea to allow commercial air travel within its airspace at a United Nations agency.
Several sources close to the effort told Reuters that the Trump administration pressured the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to drop plans with North Korea to open a new air route that would travel through both North Korean and South Korean airspace.
According to the sources, the effort was seen as the beginning steps of a potential effort by North Korea to revive the country’s commercial airline industry, which has been stymied by ICAO regulations that direct planes to avoid North Korea due to the threat of unscheduled weapons tests.
ICAO officials reportedly abandoned the effort after pressure from the Trump administration. One source with knowledge of the efforts told Reuters that the purpose of the Trump administration’s move was to block North Korea from reaping rewards of closer ties with the West until it took concrete action to dissolve its nuclear weapons program.
“They would keep tight hold of all available leverage to make sure there is no loophole until the North Koreans take action that deserves a reward,” the source told Reuters.
The State Department declined to comment to Reuters on the report. The ICAO does not hold formal authority over airlines, but its standards are adopted by U.N. member nations.
A limited number of airlines, including North Korea’s state-owned venture Air Koryo, currently offer a small number of flights to the country every year.