Jun 20, 2017 - Politics & Policy

Otto Warmbier death could spark North Korea travel ban

Jon Chol Jin / AP

The death of 22-year-old American student Otto Warmbier, who was released last week from a North Korean prison, is sparking a greater political debate over how to hold Kim Jong-un's regime responsible. One option of retaliation is for Congress or the Trump administration to issue new restrictions on Americans traveling to North Korea.

Last month, Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Joe Wilson (R-SC) proposed a new bill that, if passed in Congress, would require Americans traveling to North Korea to obtain a license, and Americans would be banned from visiting as tourists, per NY Mag.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also hinted to a House committee last week that the administration may introduce such a ban. "We haven't come to a final conclusion, but we are considering it," Tillerson said.

Involving China: Tillerson, who has vowed to take a more aggressive approach on North Korea, may also look to China as the administration has done in recent months, to ramp up pressure on Kim Jong-un's regime. Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis are set to meet with their Chinese counterparts later this week, and advancing work against North Korea is expected to dominate a large part of their meetings.

Lawmakers' calls for action:

  • President Trump: "[Warmbier's death] deepens my administration's determination to prevent such tragedies from befalling innocent people at the hands of regimes that do not respect the rule of law or basic human decency."
  • Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) on his proposed bill: "Tourist travel to North Korea does nothing but provide funds to a tyrannical regime – that will in turn be used to develop weapons to threaten the United States and our allies... Worse, the regime has routinely imprisoned innocent foreign civilians and used them as bargaining chips to gain credibility with the West."
  • Sen. John McCain (R-AZ): " Otto Warmbier, an American citizen, was murdered by the Kim Jong-un regime... [the regime] has escalated to brutalizing Americans, including three other citizens currently imprisoned in North Korea. The United States of America cannot and should not tolerate the murder of its citizens by hostile powers."
  • Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R): "All Ohioans mourn the death of Otto Warmbier, a young man of exceptional spirit... This horrendous situation further underscores the evil, oppressive nature of the North Korean regime that has such disregard for human life."
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