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US Travel Ban to North Korea May End Soon, South Korean Media Speculates

© REUTERS / KyodoOtto Frederick Warmbier (R), a University of Virginia student who has been detained in North Korea since early January, bows during a new conference in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this photo released by Kyodo February 29, 2016
Otto Frederick Warmbier (R), a University of Virginia student who has been detained in North Korea since early January, bows during a new conference in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this photo released by Kyodo February 29, 2016 - Sputnik International
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The ban on US citizens traveling to North Korea is expected to expire at the end of August, according to a Wednesday report by the Korea Times.

The US government has not announced an extension of the ban, which took effect on September 1, 2017, amid escalating tensions between the US and North Korea, which was testing intercontinental ballistic missiles at the time. 

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The ban also followed the death of Otto Warmbier, a US college student who traveled to North Korea in 2016. Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for allegedly trying to steal a propaganda sign from a hotel in Pyongyang.

After 17 months in detention, he was released in June 2017 after falling into a coma and evacuated to the United States, but died in Ohio a few days later. The US State Department did not comment on the circumstances surrounding Warmbier's death, but condemned North Korea for its handling of the situation.

"Due to mounting concerns over the serious risk of arrest and long-term detention, the department will soon impose a travel restriction on all US nationals' use of a passport to travel in, through or to North Korea," Susan A.Thornton, acting assistant secretary of the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs of the US State Department, said in a statement on July 25, 2017. 

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Under the ban, US citizens who wish to travel to North Korea are required to obtain special passport validation from the State Department.

At least 16 US citizens have been detained in North Korea in the past decade, Sputnik reported last year, including Americans who were in the country with organized and permitted tour groups.

"We seek to prevent the future detentions of US citizens by the North Korean regime to avoid another tragedy like that which Otto Warmbier and his family endured," Thornton added in her July 2017 statement.

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