- The Washington Times - Friday, July 21, 2017

The Trump administration Friday announced a travel ban on Americans visiting North Korea, citing the danger of arrests and mistreatment following the death of university student Otto Warmbier after imprisonment in North Korea.

The decision comes amid heightened tension over nuclear-armed North Korea’s long-range missile tests, as well as Warmbier’s death in June after being returned to the U.S. in a coma.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s decision to impose a “geographical travel restriction” for North Korea will make it illegal to use U.S. passports to enter the country. The restriction would be published in the Federal Register next week and will take effect 30 days after that.

“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,” said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert.

The move was applauded by Rep. Adam Schiff, California Democrat and frequent Trump critic who had sponsored a bipartisan bill to restrict travel to North Korea.

“After the horrific treatment of Otto Warmbier, only the latest American detained by the regime, limiting US travel is unfortunately sensible and necessary,” he said in a statement.

It wasn’t clear how many Americans the move will effect, as figures about how many Americans go to North Korea are difficult for even the U.S. government to obtain. The U.S. strongly warns Americans against traveling to North Korea, but has not until now prohibited it despite other sanctions targeting the country. Americans who venture there typically travel from China, where several tour groups market trips to adventure-seekers.

Barring Americans from stepping foot in North Korea marks the latest U.S. step to isolate the furtive, nuclear-armed nation, and protect U.S. citizens who may be allured by the prospect of traveling there. Nearly all Americans who have gone to North Korea have left without incident. But some have been seized and given draconian sentences for seemingly minor offenses.

This report is based in part on wire service reports.

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