State Department to impose North Korea travel ban in August

The U.S. State Department confirmed on Friday it will establish a travel ban on American visitors to North Korea.

The notion of a ban on travel to North Korea was first discussed publicly by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in mid-June. Tillerson revealed the White House was weighing such a ban when appearing in front of a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing.

Announcing the new policy, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters at a State briefing about the measure.

“Due to mounting concerns over the serious risk of arrest and long-term detention under North Korea’s system of law enforcement, the Secretary has authorized a Geographical Travel Restriction on all U.S. nationals’ use of a passport to travelling through, or to North Korea,” she said. 

“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.”

Nauert continued with specifics of the ban, announcing the travel prohibition will go into effect 30 days following its publication into the Federal Register.  The ban is likely to take effect sometime in late August.

Despite its forbidding headline, Nauert laid out some possible exemptions for travel.  Under the new policy, travelers seeking permission to travel to North Korea on humanitarian grounds will be able to apply for special validation passports.

The ban comes only weeks after the return and death of 22-year-old Otto Warmbier, a University of Virginia student who was arrested in January 2016 while on a visit to Pyongyang with Young Pioneer Tours.

Warmbier was arrested after attempting to steal a propaganda poster from a hallway of the hotel in which he was a guest.  Warmbier later pleaded guilty to “hostile acts against the state,” and was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment.  Released on June 12, Warmbier died on June 19 after arriving home in Cincinnati in a comatose state.

Three other Americans are currently being held by the North Korean government.

 

[BBC News] [Washington Examiner] [Photo courtesy AP via Daily Mail]