THE NORTH KOREAN regime has slammed the United States government’s decision to ban its citizens from visiting the hermit state, its KCNA news agency describing the move as a “sordid” attempt to restrict exchanges between the countries’ people.
An article on Friday cited an unidentified Foreign Ministry official as saying international tourists had nothing to fear about going to North Korea, but defended the country’s right to punish foreign criminals as it sees fit.
The spokesman said, as quoted by Reuters:
“Our doors are always open for all Americans who visit our country out of good will and wish to see our reality.”
In a notice posted to the federal register on Wednesday, the State Department made clear US passports will be invalid for travel to or within North Korea on the grounds 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.”
The new rule will also apply to those currently in the country on US passports who are advised to depart in the next 30 days.
Rare exceptions may be granted to journalists and aid workers.
The notice served mostly to put an effective date on a ban announced last month by the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson after the death of US student Otto Warmbier, who was sentenced in North Korea last year to 15 years of hard labour for trying to steal a propaganda item.
“There is no country in the world that would let foreigners who commit this sort of crime be,” the North Korean spokesman said on Friday.
“Ruling criminals by the law is exercising our confident right as a sovereign state.”
Warmbier was in a coma when he was released on humanitarian grounds. The circumstances of his death remain unclear.
The KCNA did not name Warmbier in Friday’s report, but said the North had delivered “just punishment” to some US citizens who had carried out acts against the regime.
North Korea is currently holding two Korean-American academics and a missionary in addition to a Canadian pastor and three South Korean nationals who were doing missionary work.
Aside from the threat of incarceration, North Korea’s growing nuclear and missile threat is perhaps Trump’s most serious security challenge.
The North test-launched an intercontinental ballistic missile last month experts believe had the range to reach Alaska and Hawaii, and perhaps the US Pacific Northwest.
Additional reporting by Reuters