Congressmen Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Joe Wilson (R-SC) last week introduced the North Korea Travel Control Act, which would require the Treasury Department to issue regulations requiring a license for transactions related to travel to, from and within North Korea by American citizens. It also would ban licenses for tourist travel.
“In recent years, there has been an increase in tourist travel to the DPRK by citizens of Western countries, including the United States,” Schiff said. “With increased tensions in North Korea, the danger that Americans will be detained for political reasons is greater than ever. Given North Korea’s continuing destabilizing behavior and their demonstrated willingness to use American visitors as bargaining chips to extract high-level meetings or concessions, it is appropriate for the United States to take steps to control travel to a nation that poses a real and present danger to American interests.”
Wilson said tourist travel to North Korea “does nothing but provide funds to a tyrannical regime” that will in turn be used to develop weapons to threaten the United States and its allies, which he said he saw firsthand on a visit to Pyongyang.
In the past, North Korea has shown a willingness to use American prisoners to seek diplomatic concessions, including securing visits from former presidents and cabinet officials. At least 17 Americans have been detained in the past ten years, despite the State Department strongly warning U.S. citizens against traveling to the DPRK. Currently, at least four Americans remain imprisoned. In addition to security concerns, Western visitors bring with them much needed foreign currency, especially valued in a country facing extensive international sanctions for its illegal nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.
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