Schiff-Wilson Bill Restricting Tourist Travel to North Korea Passes Committee
Washington, DC – Today, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific marked up and reported the North Korea Travel Control Act (H.R. 2372), introduced by Rep. Schiff and Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC), to the full committee. This bill would instruct the Secretary of State to restrict the use of U.S. passports for travel to North Korea when the primary purpose is tourism, and require all travelers to notify the State Department of their travel and seek prior approval. This latest action in the House comes just over a month after the tragic death of Otto Warmbier, an American college student who was imprisoned by North Korea for seventeen months.
“Given the increased belligerency and provocations by the North Korean regime, this legislation is all the more important now, and I am pleased that the Foreign Affairs Committee understands the urgency to move this legislation forward," said Rep. Schiff. "The tragic death of Otto Warmbier, tantamount to the murder of a U.S. citizen by North Korea, should heighten our resolve to ensure that no more American citizens are endangered or used as bargaining chips by this pariah state. I look forward to continuing to work with stakeholders in Congress to pass it into law.”
“I’ve visited North Korea on a Congressional delegation in 2003 led by former Congressman Curt Weldon who had been invited after Baghdad had been liberated, getting the attention of the dictator,” said Rep. Wilson. “While there, I saw firsthand how every dollar in North Korea, including the revenue from tourism, goes towards the subjugation of the citizens and towards the very weapons development program it uses to threaten the United States. Additionally, the regime also has no reservations about using illegally detained Americans as bargaining chips in an attempt to score credibility on the world stage. It is past time that we restrict travel to this communist, totalitarian regime, and I am grateful that the legislation overwhelmingly passed the subcommittee. I appreciate Chairman Ted Yoho for scheduling this markup, and hope it is considered before the whole House soon. It is past time that we impose meaningful travel restrictions, while still providing humanitarian exemptions, to North Korea.”
In late May, Schiff and Wilson introduced the bipartisan North Korea Travel Control Act. At least seventeen Americans have been detained in the past ten years, despite the State Department strongly warning U.S. citizens against traveling to the DPRK. Currently, at least three Americans remain imprisoned. With heightened tensions between the United States and North Korea, the danger that additional Americans will be detained for political reasons has increased. In addition to security concerns, Western visitors bring with them much needed foreign currency, especially valued in a country facing extensive international sanctions for its illegal nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. Last week, the State Department indicated its intention to issue regulations restricting travel by Americans to North Korea.