U.S. to ban Americans from visiting North Korea

U.S. to ban Americans from visiting North Korea

Two companies which organise trips from the U.S. to North Korea, Young Pioneer Tours and Koryo Tours, claim the ban is to be announced on July 27 and will then begin 30 days later.

"There is no deadline", by which Pyongyang has to respond, a South Korea unification ministry official told Yonhap news agency.

North Korea's tourism agency has launched a website offering holiday options ranging from surfing to rice planting, despite strong US warnings to avoid travel to a nation where several trips have ended in jail.

According to the tour operator, after the ban comes into force, the United States government will invalidate passports of its citizens who travel to North Korea.

After being held prisoner by North Korea for 17 months, Warmbier in June was handed over to the USA in a vegetative state. He was arrested there and sentenced to 15 years of hard labour after a North Korean court found him guilty of stealing a propaganda poster from his hotel in Pyongyang. After being held prisoner by North Korea for 17 months, Warmbier in June was handed over to the U.S. in a vegetative state. An alert strongly warning U.S. citizens not to travel to North Korea was issued 9 May.

Though it hasn't been officially announced by the government, the ban was confirmed by two travel agencies that take Americans to North Korea.

Officers at both companies said the Swedish Embassy told them the USA would make the announcement on Thursday next week, with the ban to take effect 30 days later, in late August.

The Transitional Justice Working Group, which issued the report, is based in Seoul and led by Lee Younghwan, a defector who has worked as an advocate for human rights in North Korea.

Seoul's overture came after North Korea claimed to have carried out its first test-firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile on July 4.

Mingzheng has reportedly served as a money laundering front for North Korea's state-run Foreign Trade Bank, which has been targeted by past USA sanctions.

Under U.S. law, the secretary of state has the authority to designate passports as restricted for travel to countries with which the United States is at war, when armed hostilities are in progress or when there is imminent danger to the public health or physical security of U.S. travelers.

Tour operators suggest that up to 1,000 visit every year. Last year North Korea allowed Chinese tourists to visit without passports, only increasing the volume of traffic.

Kim Sang Duk, also known as Tony Kim, a university professor, was detained in Pyongyang in 2017 and accused of attempting to overthrow the government.

Moon took office in May pledging to engage the North in dialogue, as well as to bring pressure on it to impede its nuclear and missile programmes.

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