MS Risk Blog

US Travel Ban for North Korea from 1 September

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The United States State Department announced this month that a ban by US passport holders to North Korea will take effect on 1 September 2017, adding that Americans in the country should leave before that date. North Korea will effectively become the only country to which Americans are banned from travelling.

The US State Department issues a notice in the Federal Registrar on Wednesday 3 August declaring US passports invalid for travel to, in or through North Korea. The restriction takes effect in thirty days and applies for one year unless it is extended or revoked by the secretary of state. In a public notice, the department disclosed that “persons currently in North Korea on a US passport should depart North Korea before the travel restriction enters into effect on Friday, September 1, 2017.” The department has noted that journalists and humanitarian workers may apply for exceptions to the ban. According to the statement, professional reporters or journalists, representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) or the American Red Cross travelling on official missions, those travelling to North Korea for “compelling humanitarian considerations” and those whose requests are “in the national interest” may ask for a special validation of their passports in order to travel to the country.

The official announcement comes after the US government last month stated that it would bar Americans from travelling to North Korea due to the risk of “long-term detention” there. The ban comes at a time of heightened tensions between the US and North Korea, which has been working to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the US. It also comes after American student Otto Warmbier, who was sentenced last year to 15 years’ hard labour in North Korea, returned to the US in a coma on 13 June after being released on humanitarian grounds. He died on 19 June, and the circumstances surrounding his death are not clear, including why he fell into a coma. North Korea has stated through its state media the Mr Warmbier’s death was “a mystery.” It has also dismissed accusations that he had died as a result of torture and beating in captivity.

North Korea is currently holding two Korean-American academics and a missionary, a Canadian pastor and three South Korean nationals who were doing missionary work. Japan has also stated that North Korea has detained at least several dozen of its nationals.