US weighs travel ban on North Korea: report

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The Trump administration is reportedly considering banning U.S. travel to North Korea after the death of Otto Warmbier, 22, who was held in the country for 17 months after allegedly trying to steal a political poster.

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has been considering the move since March, when an American teacher, Tony Kim, was detained in Pyongyang. Those discussions became more urgent after Warmbier’s death Monday in his home state of Ohio.

President Trump called Warmbier’s death a “total disgrace” and hit his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, for not bringing him home sooner.

{mosads}”It’s a total disgrace what happened to Otto. That should never ever be allowed to happen,” Trump said Tuesday. “Frankly, if he were brought home sooner, I think the result would have been a lot different.”

Top lawmakers in the House and Senate seemed to agree with the move, saying that the travel policy with North Korea must be reviewed.

Tourism to North Korea “helps to fund one of the most brutal and despotic regimes in the world,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said Tuesday in a statement to USA Today. “The barbaric treatment of Otto Warmbier by the North Korean regime amounts to the murder of a U.S. citizen.”

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) agreed, warning the newspaper that tourism to the rogue dictatorship often endangeres American lives.

“It puts us in a very precarious situation,” Corker said. “We’re constantly having to get people out of the country. I think it’s something we should seriously look at because it affects our national security. It certainly endangers their lives.”

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Tuesday also endorsed the travel ban. The House Democratic whip stressed the difficulty in engaging North Korea, characterizing the country as “a state that violates all the norms” and suggesting that talks with China, a close North Korean ally, would bear more fruit. 

But Washington, he added, should use whatever small powers of persuasion it has over Pyongyang.

“We don’t have a lot of leverage, but I would support the travel ban. I would support effective ways to modify North Korea’s behavior,” Hoyer said. “The Chinese are the best way to do it — it’s difficult for the rest of the world to do it — but it ought to be done.”

The United States does not have diplomatic relations with North Korea’s government. According to The Associated Press, the negotiations over Warmbier’s release were the first direct contacts between the nations in years.

Mike Lillis contributed.

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