The airworthiness of two An-148-100s operated by North Korea's Air Koryo (JS, Pyongyang) may be at risk after Ukraine severed all ties with the reclusive state, US-based research website NK News has reported.

North Korea, officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), depended on Ukrainian manufacturer Antonov Design Bureau for the provision of maintenance expertise and spare parts to ensure the aircraft's airworthiness.

However, Kyiv severed all remaining ties with North Korea after Pyongyang recognised the independence of the two Russian-backed and -controlled breakaway polities in eastern Ukraine, the Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics, becoming the third UN member state to grant them recognition after Russia and Syria.

Even though North Korea is subject to wide-ranging international sanctions mostly related to its ongoing ballistic missile and nuclear programmes, in contrast with sanctions imposed on Russia or Iran, aviation parts have been excluded from the trade ban.

The two Antonov regional jets are Air Koryo's most modern aircraft at just 8.6 years of age on average. The only other post-Cold War aircraft operated by the carrier are a 13.2-year-old Tu-204-100 and a 29.6-year-old Tu-204-300, the ch-aviation fleets module shows.

Air Koryo could source An-148 spare parts from Russia, although their availability would be scarce as the type was assembled under licence from Antonov at the Voronezh Joint-Stock Aircraft Building Company (VASO) facility at Voronezh Pridacha airport. However, manufacturing in Russia ceased in 2018 after Antonov withdrew VASO's licence. Since then, Russian airlines have been experiencing growing problems with maintaining their An-148s, forcing the largest commercial operator of the type in Russia, Angara Airlines (AGU, Irkutsk International), to retire all of its six of the type. Antonov considers all maintenance work done by entities in Russia as unauthorised.

Twenty-two An-148-100s remain in service with various Russian governmental and military units.