US to 'ban American tourists from visiting North Korea'

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The US is set to ban its citizens from visiting North Korea, according to tour agencies operating there.

Two agencies, Koryo Tours and Young Pioneer Tours, claim the ban will be announced on 27 July and come into effect 30 days later.

The reports have not been confirmed by the US.

Young Pioneer Tours was the agency that took American student Otto Warmbier to North Korea. He was arrested during his trip and sentenced to 15 years of hard labour.

After falling into a coma he was released and returned to the US, but died days later.

North Korea has said through its state media that Mr Warmbier’s death was “a mystery” and dismissed accusations that he had died as a result of torture and beating in captivity.

Otto Warmbier while detained in North Korea (REUTERS)

Young Pioneer Tours, based in China, issued a statement on Friday saying: “We have just been informed that the US government will no longer be allowing US citizens to travel to the DPRK (North Korea).

“It is expected that the ban will come into force within 30 days of July 27th. After the 30 day grace period any US national that travels to North Korea will have their passport invalidated by their government.”

The company had reportedly been informed about the ban by the Swedish Embassy, which looks after US affairs in North Korea.

The isolated state allows foreign tourists to visit but their travel is strictly limited.

Tensions between North Korea and the US have heated up in recent months as Kim Jong Un continues to test nuclear weapons.

Earlier this year, US vice president Mike Pence said the “era of strategic patience” with the nation was over.

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