North Korea says door remains 'open' for USA tourists

Ed Jones  Agence France-Presse

A spokesman for the North Korean foreign ministry told the state-controlled KCNA news agency Thursday that foreign tourists had no reason to fear for their safety in the country, welcoming all and any USA citizens who may want to visit.

US passport holders will no longer be able to visit North Korea as tourists starting September 1, according to the State Department.

North Korea is now holding two Korean-American academics and a missionary in addition to a Canadian pastor and three South Korean nationals who were doing missionary work.

"The door is always open to all Americans who want to visit North Korea with good faith and see its real state", the spokesman said.

Some U.S. residents who are intimately familiar with the situation in North Korea denounced the decision, waring that it could potentially limit U.S. influence in the region and prevent important humanitarian aid missions from being carried out.

The notice served mostly to put an effective date on a ban announced last month by the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson after the death of US student Otto Warmbier, who was sentenced in North Korea last year to 15 years of hard labour for trying to steal a propaganda item.

"Ruling criminals by the law is exercising our confident right as a sovereign state."

Pyongyang labeled the ban "childish" and said it would continue welcoming American tourists.

Certain groups of people - including journalists and humanitarian workers - may apply for exceptions to the ban, according to the public notice.

"As for a few USA citizens who committed hostile acts against the DPRK instigated by malicious groups in the USA, we gave them due punishments in accordance with the laws of the DPRK", the statement read.

"There is no country in the world that would let foreigners who commit this sort of crime be", the spokesman said.

The latest comments come after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Tuesday the USA does not see North Korea as an enemy, although he described nuclear development program as a threat.

The spokesman called on the Donald Trump administration to abandon its hostile policy towards North Korea.

On Thursday, the US State Department said that the new measure would go into effect on September 1.

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