New Bill Aims to Bar Travel to North Korea

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An unusual travel destination could be off the table soon due to new, bipartisan legislation.

Reuters reports that Republican and Democratic U.S. congressman have introduced a bill to bar Americans from visiting North Korea as tourists, citing the country’s record of detaining Americans to extract concessions from the United States.

“With increased tensions in North Korea, the danger that Americans will be detained for political reasons is greater than ever,” the congressmen said in a statement, pointing to North Korea’s “demonstrated willingness to use American visitors as bargaining chips to extract high level meetings or concessions.”

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The Hill reports that the “North Korea Travel Control Act” would block all tourists visits and force other visitors to obtain permission through a licensing system overseen by the Treasury Department. Several hundred Americans reportedly visit North Korea annually, not including relief workers and religious groups. There are no restrictions on travel to the country despite recent tensions over its reported development of a new missile capable of reaching Japan and major U.S. military bases.

Republican Representative Joe Wilson, one of the Congressman who introduced the bill, told WTKR that there has been an increase in trips to North Korea by Americans and other Western tourists. At the same time, the vast majority of visitors to the country hail from China.

A U.S. State Department travel warning is currently in effect for North Korea.

“U.S. citizens in the DPRK are at serious risk of arrest and long-term detention under North Korea’s system of law enforcement,” the State Department warns on its website. “This system imposes unduly harsh sentences for actions that would not be considered crimes in the United States and threatens U.S. citizen detainees with being treated in accordance with ‘wartime law of the DPRK.’ Since the United States does not maintain diplomatic or consular relations with North Korea, the U.S. government has no means to provide normal consular services to U.S. citizens in North Korea.”

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