The U.S. Government said it would ban Americans from travelling to North Korea due to “serious risk of arrest”. This is coming on the heels after an American student was jailed while on a tour and later died, the State Department said on Friday.
“U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson authorised a “Geographical Travel Restriction” on all Americans’ use of a passport to the country,’’ Spokeswoman Heather Nauert said. According to the spokeswoman, once in effect, U.S. passports will be invalid for travel to, through and in North Korea, and individuals will be required to obtain a passport with a special validation in order to travel to or within North Korea.
“The move was due to “mounting concerns over the serious risk of arrest and long-term detention under North Korea’s system of law enforcement,’’ she added. North Korea has detained two Korean-American academics and a missionary, a Canadian pastor and three South Korean nationals who were doing missionary work there. Japan says no less several dozen of its nationals are being held in the country.
“The State Department plans to publish a notice in the Federal Register next week, starting a 30-day clock before the restriction takes effect. “Americans who want to travel to North Korea for certain limited humanitarian or other purposes can apply for a special passport to do so,’’ Nauert said.
Young Pioneer, a company that arranges tours to North Korea, took American student Otto Warmbier to the country at the end of 2015. He was arrested there and sentenced to 15 years of hard labour for an incident at his hotel where he was accused of trying to steal a propaganda banner.
North Korea released the 22-year-old Warmbier in June in a coma and he died days after getting back to the U.S. The circumstances surrounding his death are not clear, including why he fell into a coma. North Korea said through its state media that Warmbier’s death was “a mystery” and dismissed accusations that he had died as a result of torture and beating in captivity.