BEIJING: Chinese tourists have been involved in a major transportation accident in North Korea and there are a large number of casualties, China’s foreign ministry said on Monday.
Chinese diplomats have rushed to the scene of the accident in North Hwanghae province, which happened on Sunday evening, the ministry added, without saying how many people had either been injured or died.
Chinese state television’s English-language channel had tweeted earlier on Monday that a tour bus had fallen off a bridge, killing more than 30 people, but later deleted the tweet.
North Hwanghae province borders South Korea and is the location of Kaesong, a well-visited tourist destination and ancient Korean capital.
North Korea is a popular, if offbeat, tourist destination for Chinese, especially from northeastern China.
South Korean think-tank the Korea Maritime Institute estimates that tourism generates about $44 million in annual revenue for North Korea. About 80 percent of all North Korea’s foreign tourists are Chinese, it says.
China said more than 237,000 Chinese visited in 2012, but it stopped publishing the statistics in 2013.
China is North Korea’s most important economic and diplomatic backer, despite Beijing’s anger at Pyongyang’s repeated nuclear and missile tests and support for strong United Nations sanctions against North Korea.
North and South Korea are in the final stages of preparations for a summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-In at the border truce village of Panmunjom on Friday.