North Korea, one of the least accessible countries in the world, is opening its borders to day-trippers, Chinese news agencies have reported.
According to the reports, the government in Pyongyang will allow visitors to cross from Dandong City in China to Sinuiju, North Korea's largest border town.
The news comes in the midst of mounting international concern over North Korea’s determination to press ahead with nuclear rocket tests and continuing tension with neighbouring South Korea and the United States.
Sinuiju is separated by a river from Dandong City, to which it is connected by road and rail. The North Korean town has been a popular place for Chinese tourists but has been almost impossible to reach for Western tourists.
Simon Cockerel, the general manager of Beijing-based Koryo Tours, one of the biggest tour companies that visits North Korea, told CNN that he had been lobbying for western access to Sinuiju for 10 years.
"We've been putting pressure on them for years, and we believed Sinuiju in particular would be easier to gain access to because of all the tourist infrastructure already in place, and because the people there are used to seeing foreign visitors." he said.
Access to North Korea for British visitors is only possible as part of organised tours and usually involves a tour of several days during which the itinerary is strictly controlled and the scope for independent movement is extremely limited.
Regent Holidays, the largest North Korea specialist in Britain, has a range of tours to the country – and has noted an increase of interest recently, despite the poitical tensions of the past few months.
A spokeswoman for the company said that Sinuiju did not feature on its tours as it was not one of the country’s highlights.
“It’s a pretty dull border town” said Andrea Godfrey, Regent’s programme manager. “The possibility of doing a day-trip from Dandong City will appeal to those who simply want to say they have been to North Korea but will not do much for those who want to get a proper picture of the country.”