The US Plans to Ban Travel to North Korea, Tour Operators Say

The US Plans to Ban Travel to North Korea, Tour Operators Say

The US Plans to Ban Travel to North Korea, Tour Operators Say

Beijing-based Young Pioneer Tours had organized USA college student Otto Warmbier's trip to North Korea.

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.

North Korea has 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.

North Korea is known to scrutinize the activity of tourists. He was accused by the North Korean government of trying to steal a propaganda banner and was convicted of subversion. He was returned to the U.S.in June in a coma and later died.

How did the news come to light? Americans who venture there typically travel from China, where several tour groups market trips to adventure-seekers. On July 16 that deadline came and went, and US government officials have apparently decided that Beijing was not doing enough. Three other U.S. citizens are still in North Korean custody.

What form will the ban take?

The US will announce the ban within a couple of days, said Simon Cockerell, general manager of Beijing-based Koryo Tours. Following the incident, Young Pioneer Tours said it would not accept US nationals for North Korea tours.

"When you go to and from work using the bus you can feel the warm love of the great leaders every time", she says.

The sanctions would also affect a number of Russian companies that have business dealings with North Korea, the sources said.

The U.S. government has not confirmed this information.

How have the travel agencies reacted?

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According to a statement that Young Pioneer Tours posted to its website, the new policy will include the threat of canceling the passport of any American who violates the ban.

The official announcement "will basically end American tourism" in North Korea, said Cockerell, whose company now takes between 300-400 Americans to the country each year. A few administration officials, who viewed satellite imagery and studied North Korean radar emissions, said that there was an indication of test preparations and the country could test missile in next two weeks.

The U.S. State Department strongly warns Americans against travelling to North Korea, citing "serious risk of arrest and long-term detention".

There has been movement towards a ban for a while in the USA, which increased with the Warmbier death.

Leisure travel to North Korea is relatively rare but fairly straightforward; to obtain a tourist visa, travelers have to book onto pre-planned tours that are accompanied by two North Korean guides approved by the secretive regime.

USA officials have said that North Korea is continuing to launch components to launch a missile, but the United States intelligence says that the program still remains in early stages.

Its range has been disputed, but some experts said it could reach Alaska.

The new rule will not affect many Americans. Westerners make up 5 percent of total visitors, Americans about 20 percent of the Western contingent, according to statistics.

The State Department had no immediate response to the reports.

In recent years, tour companies have reported that roughly 800 to 1,200 Americans have visited North Korea annually.

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