US is going to ban its citizens from travelling to North Korea.
The ban reportedly will be announced on July 27, 2017 and will come into effect a month after that.
Relations between US and North Korea have always been strained. The former is one of the most isolated nations in the world. US has regards North Korea’s nuclear program as a threat. In July 2017, North Korea conducted a successful test-launch of an ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile) that can reach Alaska.
US condemned the tests and retaliated by conducting joint missile military exercises along with South Korea. US President Donald Trump has also asked China to exert pressure on North Korea to counter this threat.
Two travel agencies, Koryo Tours and Young Pioneer Tours, claim that they have been notified by the Swedish embassy on the ban. The US has not yet confirmed.
The ban comes in the wake of Otto Warmbier’s death. He was an American student detained by North Korea in 2015. He was released in 2017 on “humanitarian grounds” but he returned to the US in coma and died shortly thereafter. It was through Young Pioneer Tours that Warmbier had visited North Korea.
There are currently three other US citizens in custody in North Korea. Kim Dong-chul, a 62-year-old U.S. citizen born in South Korea was sentenced to 10 years of hard labor on charges of spying in 2016. A Korean-American professor, Kim Sang-duk, has also been detained in 2017 and Kim Hak-song was detained in May 2017 after being accused of “hostile acts” against the state.
Over 800 Americans travel to North Korea on a yearly basis. Majority Americans who go to North Korea are Christian missionaries who go to teach at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST). The sons of some of the most elite members of North Korea attend PUST.
Our assessment is that the ban is a pre-emptive move by the US to prevent North Korea from falsely detaining US citizens only to be later used as pawns during negotiations. Though the outcome of a conflict between US and North Korea is not predictable, there is likelihood that the two countries may end up in limited military engagements. We believe that this may not escalate to a larger conflict.