By: Zack Duvall
U.S. officials said on Friday that the State Department is in the final stages of implementing what will be a full and complete ban on travel to North Korea by American citizens, and could result in a fine and 10-year prison sentence for anyone who uses a U.S. passport to enter the rogue nation.
The proposed ban would be considered what is called a “geographic travel restriction” and would make it illegal to use a U.S. passport to travel to North Korea, and is reportedly being issued from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson directly. The move comes just a month after the death of American college student, Otto Warmbier, in June after his arrest by North Korean authorities on espionage charges.
The United States has always strongly advised travel to the country and has issued numerous official travel advisories and warnings in the past, has never issued a formal ban on travel to the isolated nation, an indication that the Trump administration is becoming increasingly willing to implement new policies and measures in order to address the North Korean threat.
The measure being taken by Tillerson comes at a time of growing frustration from the White House over North Korean defiance of American- sponsored and proposed international sanctions, and the reluctance of Pyongyang’s strongest economic and regional ally, China, to use its influence to reign in North Korean leader Kim Jung Un.
Additional actions y the State Department include implementing another round of “secondary sanctions” aimed largely at Chinese financial and banking institutions who have any dealings with the North, even if those business transactions are “legitimate” according to officials.
Supporters of the ban cite past cases of North Korean leaders using American detainees as leverage in talks with the U.S., and the need to deny Pyongyang any such leverage in future talks as evidence for the need of such action by the U.S.
However, critics of the proposed actions say that further “isolation” of North Korea only furthers Pyongyang’s narrative of the West trying to cut North Korea off from the rest of the world unjustly.
The U.S. State Department has only issued such travel restrictions seven times since 1967. The list of countries subject to such a ban in the past include; North Vietnam, Iraq, Sudan, Cuba, Lebanon, Algeria, and Libya,
No official word on when the ban would be put in place, but would take at least 30-days to fully implement once published in the Federal Register, the official daily publication for rules, proposed rules, and notices of Federal agencies and organizations, as well as executive orders and other presidential documents.