Update: This article was amended at 1610 KST to conform with KCNA’s official translation
North Korea’s foreign ministry has condemned a recent U.S. State Department travel ban as a plot intended to restrict personal exchanges, the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Friday.
“The U.S. administration took this childish measure of issuing a travel ban to our country while finding fault with the exercise of legitimate right of the sovereign state,” KCNA reported, quoting a spokesperson for the DPRK Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“This is an act to impugn the dignified prestige of the DPRK and a vile measure to limit the people-to-people exchange.”
The Trump administration took the measures, the foreign ministry argued, to prevent U.S. citizens from seeing “the true picture of the DPRK.”
“It is also a reflection of the U.S. administration’s perception which regards the DPRK as an enemy,” the KCNA added in the English dispatch.
Calls for a ban on U.S. citizens traveling to North Korea as tourists intensified in June with the death of Otto Warmbier, an American student who passed away just days after returning home from a year-long imprisonment in the DPRK.
Warmbier was sentenced to 15-years’ hard labor by a North Korean court in March last year, after allegedly attempting to steal a propaganda poster from Pyongyang’s Yanggakdo Hotel while visiting the country as a tourist.
In its statement today, the DPRK foreign ministry maintained that trying a criminal in accordance with the law was an “legitimate right of a sovereign state.”
“As for a few U.S. citizens who committed hostile acts against the DPRK instigated by malicious groups in the U.S., we gave them due punishments in accordance with the laws of the DPRK,” the statement read.
“There is no country in the world that will ignore the foreigners who committed hostile acts within its territory.”
Three American citizens remain detained in North Korea.
The U.S. State Department confirmed on July 21 that U.S. citizens would be subject to a geographic travel restriction preventing them from visiting North Korea. Journalists, aid workers and individuals heading to North Korea to represent U.S. national interests will be exempt.
The administration decided to ban U.S. passport holders from traveling to the DPRK based on concerns over “imminent danger to the physical safety,” according to a notice by the State Department.
Pyongyang claimed that “numerous foreigners including Americans who visited our country unanimously agree” that there “isn’t any reason for the foreigners to feel threat.”
“We will always leave our door wide open to any U.S. citizen who would like to visit our country out of good will and to see the realities with their own eyes,” KCNA said.
“Now is time for the Trump administration to come to its senses and make a decision to abandon its hostile policy towards the DPRK.”
The foreign ministry’s condemnation of the ban is markedly different from comments made by a senior North Korea development official to AFP on Tuesday, in which he said that the country was indifferent to the ban.
“If the U.S. government says Americans cannot come to this country, we don’t care a bit,” Han Chol Su, vice-director of the Wonsan Zone Development Corporation, said.
The restriction on travel is set to begin on September 1, 30 days after its publication in the U.S. Federal Register, and declares U.S. passports invalid for travel to North Korea unless they qualify for an exemption.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
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Featured Image: Pyongyang Metro by Clay Gilliland on 2013-10-04 10:07:51