US plans to ban citizens from visiting North Korea

22 Jul 2017 | Written by Abheet Sethi; Edited by Ramya

Two agencies which operate foreign tours into North Korea said the US is banning its citizens from traveling to the country.

The Swedish embassy, which handles US affairs in North Korea, informed Koryo Tours and Young Pioneer Tours that the ban would be announced on July 27.

The unconfirmed move comes amid increasingly strained US-North Korea relations since jailed American student Otto Warmbier's death.

In context: US reportedly ban on visits to North Korea

16 Mar 2016Detained American tourist in N-Korea gets 15 years jail

In March 2016, Otto Warmbier, the detained American-student-tourist, was sentenced to 15 years of hard labour in prison by North Korea's Supreme Court.

Warmbier, who was charged with subversion and found guilty, was sentenced during a one hour trial.

Warmbier confessed that he stole a propaganda sign for an acquaintance who wanted to put it in her church.

20 Jun 2017US student Otto Warmbier released by North Korea dies

On June 20, 22-year-old US college student Otto Warmbier, who was released after spending 17 months as a prisoner in North Korea, has passed away in Cincinnati.

Warmbier had returned home in a coma and suffered a severe brain injury.

His parents said his death was a result of "the awful torturous mistreatment our son received at the hands of the North Koreans."

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22 Jul 2017US plans to ban citizens from visiting North Korea

North Korea relaxed rules for American visitors in 2010

In 2010, North Korea relaxed its rules for allowing Americans to visit the country. The US State Department doesn't keep any record on the number of American tourists. An estimated 1,000 Americans visit the reclusive country every year, according to tour operators.
US has reportedly urged American citizens to leave North Korea

DetailsUS has reportedly urged American citizens to leave North Korea

The Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang acts on behalf of US in North Korea as Washington doesn't have diplomatic relations.

Rowan Beard, who represents Young Pioneer Tours said the embassy has urged all American nationals to leave North Korea.

It's also checking the number of Americans left in the country.

On May 9, the US State Department strongly warned American citizens not travel to North Korea.

ExplainedUS may make it illegal for Americans to visit North

"It remains to be seen what the exact text is, but the indication is it's just a straight up ban on Americans going," said Simon Cockerell of Koryo Tours.

US officials told Associated Press that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has decided to enforce "geographical travel restriction" for North Korea.

This means it's illegal for US passports to be used to enter the country.

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Tour operators react

Simon Cockerell of Koryo Tours said the agency would continue organizing tours for Americans until the US ban comes into effect. Cockerell said: "It's unfortunate for the industry but also for North Koreans who want to know what Americans are really like."