The State Department has announced that the use of a US passport to travel to North Korea will be banned for another year as the ban has been effective since 2017 and has been renewed ever since.
Nuclear missile programs and the status of Travis King, a US service member who last month entered the country through the heavily armed border, are the main factors for the government’s decision to extend the ban for another year, VisaGuide.World reports.
“The Department of State has determined there continues to be a serious risk to US citizens and nationals of arrest and long-term detention constituting an imminent danger to their physical safety,” the department said in a notice for AP.
Travelling with a US passport to go to, from or through North Korea is considered illegal and will continue to be banned until August 31, 2024. The previous Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, introduced the ban during the Trump administration in 2017, following the death of an American student who was heavily injured while in North Korean custody.
The student, known as Otto Warmbier, was part of a group tour of North Korea and was leaving the country in 2016 when he was arrested for reportedly stealing a propaganda poster. He was later sentenced to 15 years in prison but died in a hospital six days after returning to the US.
Humanitarian groups have raised concerns about the impact of the ban and its extension on the further isolation of North Korea, one of the world’s most isolated countries.
According to AP, there is no indication that King used a US passport to enter the communist country when he crossed the border in July. The US had sought King’s return but was unsuccessful in contact with North Korean officials regarding this case.
Just recently, North Korea confirmed the King’s presence in the country for the first time, releasing a statement on August 16 through its state media attributing statements to the Army private that criticised the United States.
It hasn’t been verified whether King made any of the comments during his service in the Asian country while he initially started in South Korea. He then went into North Korea while on a civilian tour of a border village on July 18 and became the first American confirmed to be detained in the North in nearly five years.
Between 2004 and 2011, around 112 North Korean refugees were accepted in the US, but only 25 have received political asylum.
Source: Visa Guide