Washington, Jul 21 (EFE).- The United States is set to ban its citizens from traveling to North Korea, a move that follows the recent death of an American university student who had visited the secretive Asian nation.
The measure was announced Friday by US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert.
“Due to mounting concerns over the serious risk of arrest and long-term detention under North Korea’s system of law enforcement, (Secretary of State Rex Tillerson) has authorized a Geographical Travel Restriction on all U.S. citizen nationals’ use of a passport to travel in, through, or to North Korea,” Nauert said.
She said people who wish to travel to North Korea for humanitarian or other unspecified reasons would need to obtain a “special validation passport.”
The announcement comes just over a month after the June 19 death of 22-year-old Otto Warmbier, a University of Virginia student who was arrested in early 2016 for allegedly trying to steal a propaganda poster from a Pyongyang hotel.
He was subsequently convicted of subversion and sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment with hard labor. While in custody he sustained a severe neurological injury, although it remains unclear what caused it.
North Korea decided to release Warmbier this year but the young man, who was gravely ill and in a coma, died shortly after being medically evacuated in June and taken back to his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.
The ban is expected to come into force within 30 days of July 27, China-based Young Pioneer Tours, the company Warmbier used to travel to North Korea, said in a statement.