The US will reportedly ban Americans from traveling to North Korea starting in late August. The formal announcement of the ban isn’t scheduled for next week, but news of the decision just leaked on Twitter. Welcome to the 21st century, I guess.
Young Pioneer Tours (YPT), a Chinese company that organizes trips into North Korea, was the first to break the news at 3:38am Eastern time this morning in a tweet. The BBC has also gotten confirmation of the ban from a second unnamed travel company. YPT released a statement shortly after its tweet.
“It is expected that the ban will come into force within 30 days of July 27th. After the 30 day grace period any US national that travels to North Korea will have their passport invalidated by their government,” said Young Pioneer Tours.
NK News, a reliable English-language site for news on North Korea, reports that the tourism company was tipped off about the decision after Sweden made an inquiry into how many Americans are currently in North Korea. The US doesn’t have formal diplomatic relations with North Korea and depends on Sweden to be its eyes and ears.
NK News also confirms from its own sources that there will likely be an exemption for charities working in the country, though it’s not yet clear what those exemptions would look like specifically.
The US State Department’s office in South Korea has not immediately returned Gizmodo’s request for comment. We will update this post when they do.
Update 11:29am: The State Department just sent out a statement by spokesperson Heather Nauert confirming that the ban will take effect.
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 U.S. citizen nationals’ use of a passport to travel in, through, or to North Korea.
Once in effect, U.S. passports will be invalid for travel to, through and in North Korea, and individuals will be required to obtain a passport with a special validation in order to travel to or within North Korea.
We intend to publish a notice in the Federal Register next week. The restriction will be implemented 30 days after publication of the Federal Register notice announcing the restriction.
Individuals seeking to travel to North Korea for certain limited humanitarian or other purposes may apply to the Department of State for a special validation passport. Information on that application process will also be available on travel.state.gov.”
There were renewed calls for a travel ban for the country after the death of 22-year-old American college student Otto Warmbier. Young Pioneer Tours was the company that Warmbier used to enter North Korea and issued a statement after his death that they were reviewing their policies on allowing Americans into the isolated country.
The ban on tourism to North Korea is likely to fuel speculation that the Trump regime has plans for a military strike on the country. US military officials have acknowledged that such an act would result in a high number of casualties in South Korea and Japan.
“The threat is much more immediate now. We can’t repeat the same failed approach of the past,” US National Security advisor H. R. McMaster said last month. “The President has directed us to not do that and to prepare a range of options, including a military option, which nobody wants to take.”
“There’s recognition that there has to be more pressure on the regime,” McMaster continued. “I think what you’ll see in coming days and weeks are efforts to do that.”
Looks like no more tours of North Korea for Dennis Rodman. At least until President Trump makes him an official ambassador, that is.