North Korea and the Geographical Travel Restriction


United States citizens will be prohibited from traveling to North Korea. The reason for the ban is the rising number of Americans being arrested and imprisoned while visiting the country. The Geographical Travel Restriction is targeting North Korea.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said that the decision was made by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. He prohibits U.S. citizens to use their passports to travel through, to, or in North Korea.

The restriction was put into motion after University of Virginia student Otto F. Warmbier was arrested and detained in Pyongyang, in January 2016. Pyongyang is the nation’s capital.

Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years in prison with hard labor. The American was found guilty of stealing a Communist propaganda poster from his hotel.

The prisoner was detained for nearly 18 months. He was released on medical grounds in June 2017, because he was in a coma. Warmbier died six days after being flown to his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The Communist country is one of the conflict zones that the State Department has warned Americans not to visit. However, it was not forbidden. The State Department has now stated that North Korea will be the only country off limits to U.S. passport holders.

Americans have long been able to visit the Asian Communist nation. However, the Trump administration stated the Geographical Travel Restriction will go into effect in August.

The ban is running parallel to the rising tensions between Washington and Pyongyang. The strain is related to Kim Jong Un’s nuclear weapons program, as well as the death of Warmbier.

The Washington Post reported that the restrictions on travel from the U.S. to the Communist nation are reminiscent of the Cold War era. This was the last time a travel ban between the West and the Communist block occurred.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the State Department commonly sends out warnings and issues on travel to certain countries. North Korea was one of the targeted counties. They serve as recommendations and do not restrict U.S. citizens from visiting specific countries.

U.S. citizens have been barred from certain countries in the past, although, the restrictions have been issued from foreign countries and not the State Department.

Nauert said in a statement, when the ban was first mentioned, the international security of Americans is the State Department’s first priority. The Geographical Travel Restriction was authorized because of long term detentions and vital series of arrests under North Korean President Kim.

The travel ban for Americans traveling to the Asian nation was announced shortly after Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo’s speech at the Aspen Security Forum. Pompeo stated that Washington ordered him to divide the ability to deliver and construct nuclear weapons from someone who might have malicious purposes, such as Kim.

The travel restriction was expected to go into effect 30 days after a major holiday in North Korea. This would allow enough time for Americans to leave the country. The Geographical Travel Restriction is related to North Korea.

By John A. Federico
Edited by Jeanette Smith


The Los Angeles Times: State Department will ban U.S. citizens from traveling to North Korea

The Washington Post: North Korean travel ban marks return to Cold War-era restrictions on U.S. citizens abroad

The New York Times: U.S. to Bar Americans From Traveling to North Korea

Featured Image Courtesy of Pon Pon Tin(hohiyan)’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License