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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

US bans travel to North Korea after death of student

The ban will come into force 30 days after July 27 and any US national who travels to the country will have their passports invalidated after the 30-day grace period.

American student Otto Warmbier at the Supreme Court in Pyongyang, North Korea on March 16, 2016. The 22-year-old student returned to his native US in a coma and died shortly afterwards. His death has now prompted the US government to ban American citizens from travelling to North Korea. Jon Chol Jin / AP
American student Otto Warmbier at the Supreme Court in Pyongyang, North Korea on March 16, 2016. The 22-year-old student returned to his native US in a coma and died shortly afterwards. His death has now prompted the US government to ban American citizens from travelling to North Korea. Jon Chol Jin / AP

The US government will ban its citizens from traveling to North Korea after a student died shortly after returning home from the isolated nation.

The travel agency that arranged trip, Young Pioneer Tours, on Friday said , "We have just been informed that the US government will no longer be allowing US citizens to travel to the DPRK." The company, which is based in China, added that the ban has yet to be officially confirmed but will come into force 30 days after July 27 and any US national who travels to North Korea will have their passports invalidated after the 30-day grace period.

The death last month of Otto Warmbier, who had been imprisoned for more than a year in North Korea, caused a public furore in the US, bringing home that the threat of North Korea endangers the average citizen as much as its ballistic missiles and nuclear tests. President Donald Trump denounced the death of the 22-year-old student, saying he suffered at the hands of a “brutal regime.”

Koryo Tours, another company that offers tours to North Korea, said the Swedish embassy in Pyongyang informed it of the ban. Sweden acts as a "protecting power" and an intermediary between North Korea and the United States, which have no official relations.

Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years of hard labour in March 2016 for trying to steal a political banner. He was in a coma when he was medically evacuated to his home state. After his death, Mr Trump said on Twitter that China had failed to rein in North Korea, which prompted Beijing to hit back, saying its efforts against its eastern neighbour had been “indispensable.”

North Korea denied torturing Warmbier, calling his death a mystery. The state-run Korean Central News Agency said the country provided him with “medical treatments and care with all sincerity on humanitarian basis."