In concert with new U.N. sanctions against the country, the U.S. announced this week that all travel to North Korea would be suspended until further notice. The move, which was widely expected after the shameful death of American student Otto Warmbier, comes as tensions between the U.S. and North Korea have elevated to a modern-day record high. The ban is scheduled to go into full effect on September 1.
“Once in effect, US 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. “Individuals seeking to travel to North Korea for certain limited humanitarian or other purposes may apply to the Department of State for a special validation passport.”
Warmbier was not the first example of an American traveler being mistreated by the North Korean regime. 17 U.S. citizens have been detained by the insular nation for dubious reasons over the past two decades, and three remain imprisoned to this day. By taking this step towards curtailing travel, the Trump administration hopes to limit revenue flowing into Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program, keep Americans safe from harm, and deny North Korea the bargaining chips they might exploit as they seek a sit-down with U.S. officials.
“The Department of State has determined that the serious risk to United States nationals of arrest and long-term detention represents imminent danger to the physical safety of United States nationals traveling to and within the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK),” said a public notice on the State Department’s official website.
The North Koreans, of course, criticized the ban, with a spokesman calling it a “vile measure to limit the people-to-people exchange so as not to allow the US citizens to see the true picture of the DPRK.”
The spokesman went on to say, “Now is the time for the Trump administration to come to its senses and make a decision to abandon its hostile policy. We will always leave our door wide open to any US citizen who would like to visit our country out of goodwill and to see the realities with their own eyes.”
We’re hesitant to promote any policy that curtails the free travel of American citizens, but the time has definitely come for this ban. Pyongyang cannot be trusted to behave in a rational manner and the risks are too great when it comes to foreign diplomatic efforts. Combine that with the very real threat of all-out war between the U.S. and North Korea, and this decision is an easy and justifiable one. Kim Jong Un has chosen, through his actions and words, to isolate himself on the world stage. These are the consequences of that decision.