Fri Jul 21, 2017 2:48PM
Otto Frederick Warmbier, a University of Virginia student, attends a news conference in Pyongyang, North Korea, on February 29, 2016. (Photo by Reuters)
Otto Frederick Warmbier, a University of Virginia student, attends a news conference in Pyongyang, North Korea, on February 29, 2016. (Photo by Reuters)

The United States has planned to bar its citizens from traveling to North Korea following the death of an American university student there.

US administration officials speaking on condition of anonymity made the announcement in a report published on Friday, one month after the death of university student Otto Frederick Warmbier who passed away after falling into a coma in a North Korean prison.

The officials quoted US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as saying that the government had decided to implement a "geographical travel restriction" for North Korea, meaning the use of US passports to enter the country would be illegal.

Two tour agencies, Koryo Tours and Young Pioneer Tours, both operating in and organizing group trips to North Korea also revealed that they had been informed of the upcoming ban by the Swedish embassy, which conducts US affairs in the country.

"It is expected that the ban will come into force within 30 days of July 27th,” Young Pioneer Tours said in a statement. "After the 30-day grace period any US national that travels to North Korea will have their passport invalidated by their government."

Warmbier was taken into custody in January 2016 and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in March last year, for trying to steal a banner containing a political slogan from the hotel where he had been staying.

The casket carrying the remains of Otto Warmbier is carried out of  Wyoming High School in Wyoming, Ohio on June 22, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Warmbier spent 17 months in a North Korean jail over spying charges and was released to his family back in the US after falling into a coma due to a “severe neurological injury.” He died on June 19.

North Korea has detained at least 17 American citizens over the past decade and three of them remain imprisoned there, according to official reports.

The US says it is concerned by the North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests. Pyongyang, in response, accuses Washington of plotting with regional allies to topple its government.

North Korea has so far conducted a total of five nuclear tests, in 2006, 2009, 2013 and twice in 2016, and numerous missile test-launches.

Pyongyang has defied sanctions and international pressure, saying it will continue to strengthen its military capability to protect itself from the threat posed by the presence of US forces in the region.

North Korea says it will not give up on its nuclear deterrence unless Washington ends its hostile policy toward Pyongyang and dissolves the US-led UN command in South Korea.