US confirms N. Korea travel ban after Warmbier death » Manila Bulletin News

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By Agence France-Presse

The United States confirmed Friday that it plans to ban its nationals from traveling to North Korea, in the wake of the death of an American student who was imprisoned by Pyongyang during a tourist visit.

Travel agencies organizing trips to the isolated country had said earlier Friday they were informed of the impending change.

Strict warnings against travel to North Korea had already been in place, but Washington toughened its stance after the death in June of Otto Warmbier.

This file photo taken on February 29, 2016 and released by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on March 1, 2016 shows US student Otto Warmbier (R), speaking at a press conference in Pyongyang. (AFP photo) Manila Bulletin

The 22-year-old University of Virginia student was imprisoned for more than a year on charges of stealing a propaganda poster from a North Korean hotel — and sent home in a mysterious coma that proved fatal.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the new restriction would be formally published in the government’s Federal Register next week, and take effect one month later.

“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 US citizen nationals’ use of a passport to travel in, through, or to North Korea,” Nauert said.

“Once in effect, US passports will be invalid for travel to, through and in North Korea,” she said.

Those seeking authorization for travel for “certain limited humanitarian or other purposes” would only be able to do so with a “special validation passport,” the spokeswoman added.

“The safety and security of US citizens overseas is one of our highest priorities.”

After Warmbier’s death, President Donald Trump said he was determined to “prevent such tragedies from befalling innocent people at the hands of regimes that do not respect the rule of law or basic human decency.”

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