Following the unexplained death of Otto Warmbier, a student of University of Virginia who was arrested in North Korea in January of the year 2016, and later suffered serious brain damage while serving a 15 year sentence, the Trump administration is now seeking to ban U.S citizens from entering the country.
Citing a high risk of arrest by North Korea’s authoritarian regime, the decision by Rex Tillerson (U.S Secretary of State), bars use of US passports to travel to, through, or in North Korea. The ban will make North Korea the only country in the world which American citizens are banned from traveling.
The travel ban comes as President Trump searches for more strategies to pressure N. Korea over its’ nuclear weapons and missile tests. Once in effect, United States passports will be completely invalid for travel through, in or to N.Korea, and any Americans wanting to travel to the country will be required to get a special validation passport which will be given by the U.S State Department on a case by case basis. U.S citizens who violate this restriction might face a fine and about 10 years prison sentence for a first offense.
At the moment, the State Department strongly warns Americans not to travel to N.Korea, and officials say that U.S citizens currently in N.Korea should leave before the said restrictions come into effect. According to their website, Americans who are currently in North Korea are at a high risk of getting arrested and long term detention under the country’s system of law enforcement. The system imposes very harsh sentences for some actions which wouldn’t be considered offenses in the U.S. It continues to say that, since the U.S doesn’t maintain consular or diplomatic relations with N.Korea, the U.S government doesn’t have any means of providing normal consular services to the American citizens in N.Korea.
The travel warning further explains that visitors/travelers should not have any expectations of privacy while in N.Korea, including on their electronic devices. It goes on to list actions which have been considered to be offenses or crimes in the past, like possessing any kind of material that’s considered to be critical to N.Korea, engaging in unauthorized interaction with the locals, showing any kind of disrespect to N.Korea’s former and current leaders, tampering or removing political signs, pictures or slogans of political leaders. Since the year 2009, more than a dozen U.S citizens have been arrested in N.Korea following such violations.
The United States has previously issued similar travel restrictions on traveling to countries such as Cuba, Algeria, Iraq, North Vietnam, Libya, Sudan and Lebanon, during times of serious conflict when it would be unsafe for American citizens to visit the country.