A flight departed on Thursday morning from Pyongyang’s Sunan International Airport headed for Yokota Air Base in Japan, a photo shared with NK News showed.
Direct flights from North Korea to Japan are extremely rare, especially those to U.S. military bases.
The flight, which was scheduled to depart at 09.25 am, appears to have been on a chartered route with no number listed – and does not appear on the NK Pro aviation tracker.
A source who shared the photo said they believed the flight may have contained the Canadian citizen Lim Hyeon-soo, who was released on Wednesday by North Korea in a surprise move announced by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
“Rim Hyon Su, (Lim Hyeon Soo) a Canadian civilian, was released on sick bail according to the decision of the Central Court of the DPRK on August 9, 2017, from the humanitarian viewpoint,” KCNA reported in Korean.
The source who shared the photo, and who wished to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of speaking to media from North Korea, described it as a “special unchartered flight going to Japan.”
“I think this has that South Korean Canadian pastor who’s being released,” the source said, adding that they had seen a large group of Japanese-Koreans and initially thought the flight had been chartered for them.
“But I confirmed they were all on the Beijing flight.”
Asked whether he saw the actual aircraft being used for the rare flight to Yokota, the source said: “Couldn’t see the plane, couldn’t see the boarding gate.”
Yokota is the site of Yokota Air Base, a major U.S. military installation in northern Japan.
U.S. citizen Otto Warmbier, who was released by North Korea after over a year in captivity in June, was evacuated to the U.S. military air base Chitose, near Sapporo, according to the Washington Post.
Pastor Lim was released by North Korea following the visit of a high-profile visit by a Canadian government delegation led by Daniel Jean, National Security Advisor to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Lim went missing during a trip to North Korea in January 2015 after traveling to the country in order to continue working on humanitarian projects previously established with the blessing of the North Korean government.
He was later sentenced to a life of hard labor for numerous charges, including what DPRK authorities claimed was an attempt to overthrow the government.
The Canadian government on Wednesday released a statement welcoming Pastor Lim’s release and thanking Sweden, Canada’s protecting power in North Korea, for their help.
“The Government of Canada was actively engaged on Mr. Lim’s case at all levels,” the statement from Justin Trudeau’s office read. “In particular, I want to thank Sweden, our protecting power in North Korea, for assisting us.”
“Pastor Lim’s health and well-being remain of utmost importance to the Government of Canada, and we are working to ensure that he receives any required medical attention.”
KCNA also reported that a Canadian delegation had left the country today.
Airborne from Yokata AB, Japan
🇨🇦 Royal Canadian Air Force
CL60 144617 CFC3876 pic.twitter.com/g6jrsZU8cM
— CivMilAir ✈ 🚁 (@CivMilAir) August 10, 2017
Meanwhile, a Royal Canadian Air Force flight was spotted departing Yokota Air Base on Wednesday afternoon local time. – NKNews.Org