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U.S. to ban Americans’ travel to North Korea – State Department

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WASHINGTON/SEOUL : – The U.S. government will ban Americans from travelling to North Korea due to “the serious risk of arrest” after a U.S. student was jailed while on a tour and later died, the State Department said on Friday.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson authorised a “Geographical Travel Restriction” on all Americans’ use of a passport to the country, spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.

“Once in effect, U.S. passports will be invalid for travel to, through and in North Korea, and individuals will be required to obtain a passport with a special validation in order to travel to or within North Korea,” Nauert said.

The move was due to “mounting concerns over the serious risk of arrest and long-term detention under North Korea’s system of law enforcement,” she added.

The State Department plans to publish a notice in the Federal Register next week, starting a 30-day clock before the restriction takes effect, Nauert said.

Koryo Tours, which offers tours to North Korea, had said the ban would be announced this month. The Swedish embassy in Pyongyang, which handles consular affairs for the United States in the North, informed Koryo of the ban, but did not say how long it would last, the company said.

“But it does seem to be the case that in just over a month, it will be impossible for Americans to visit as tourists,” Koryo Tours general manager Simon Cockrell told Reuters by telephone.

Nauert said Americans who want to travel to North Korea “for certain limited humanitarian or other purposes” can apply for a special passport to do so.

Young Pioneer, another company that arranges tours to North Korea, took U.S. student Otto Warmbier to the country at the end of 2015.

He was arrested there and sentenced to 15 years of hard labour for an incident at his hotel where he was accused of trying to steal a propaganda banner.

North Korea released the 22-year-old Warmbier in June in a coma and he died days after getting back to the United States. The circumstances surrounding his death are not clear, including why he fell into a coma.

North Korea has said through its state media that Warmbier’s death was “a mystery” and dismissed accusations that he had died as a result of torture and beating in captivity.

The isolated North Korea allows foreign tourists to visit but their travel is strictly limited.

Reporting by Se Young Lee and James Pearson in SEOUL and Matt Spetalnick and David Brunnstrom and Yeganeh Torbati in WASHINGTON; Writing by Jack Kim; Editing by Robert Birsel and Jeffrey Benkoe

 

America

Trump declares North Korea ‘extraordinary threat’

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Washington, June 23 : US President Donald Trump cited an “unusual and extraordinary threat” to American national security as he maintained long-standing economic restrictions on North Korea, including the freezing of any assets in Washington, a media report said.

An official declaration, contained in a notice to Congress, came on Friday despite Trump’s assertion this month that his June 12 historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ended Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons threat, reports The Washington Post.

Harsh economic restrictions will continue for one year under the declaration Trump signed Friday.

The paperwork keeps in place restrictions first imposed a decade ago by President George W. Bush.

The ban on the transfer of any American assets by North Korea’s leaders or its ruling party has been extended or expanded several times by former President Barack Obama and Trump himself in response to North Korean missile tests and other actions.

“The existence and risk of proliferation of weapons-usable fissile material on the Korean Peninsula (and the actions and policies of the government of North Korea… Continue to constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the US,” Trump wrote in the declaration.

Friday’s development comes in contrast to a tweet on June 13 where Trump said: “Just landed – a long trip, but everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office… There is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea.”

The move follows as the US and South Korea cancelled two more training exercises on Friday, reports the BBC.

The Pentagon said the goal was to support diplomatic negotiations.

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FBI should have informed me of Manafort investigation: Trump

Manafort has been under house arrest since he surrendered to the FBI in November 2017 after being indicted by a federal grand jury as part of the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, tasked with investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections.

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Washington, June 4 (IANS) US President Donald Trump has questioned the fact that the FBI did not inform him about the investigation of his then campaign manager Paul Manafort ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

“As only one of two people left who could become President, why wouldn’t the FBI or Department of ‘Justice’ have told me that they were secretly investigating Paul Manafort (on charges that were 10 years old and had been previously dropped) during my campaign?” Trump said on Sunday on Twitter.

“Should have told me!” The President also said that Manafort joined his campaign “very late” and that he worked with him for “a short period of time,” specifically, between June and August 2016, Efe news reported.

Manafort has been under house arrest since he surrendered to the FBI in November 2017 after being indicted by a federal grand jury as part of the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, tasked with investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections.

The indictment charged Manafort with conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts and being an unregistered agent of a foreign principal, among others.

Manafort had to step down as Trump’s campaign manager after it was discovered that he had failed to report receiving a $12.7 million payment for providing counsel to deposed pro-Moscow Ukranian President Viktor Yanukovych (2010-2016).

Manafort’s trial, after he pleaded not guilty to the charges at a court appearance on October 30, 2017, is set for July 24 in the state of Virginia.

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Ex-English teacher finds errors in White House letter

According to the former teacher, the letter she received did not address her concerns.

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New York, May 28 (IANS) A retired English teacher found many errors in a White House letter bearing President Donald Trumps signature and mailed it back after making corrections, a media report said.

The letter, dated May 3 and printed on White House stationery, was addressed to Yvonne Mason, 61, who retired in 2017. After she made the corrections, she snapped a picture, posted the letter on Facebook and mailed it back to the White House.

“It was a poorly worded missive,” she told The New York Times on Sunday.

“Poor writing is not something I abide. If someone is capable of doing better, then they should do better.”

Mason, a Democrat who lives in Atlanta, had written to Trump to ask that he visit each family of those who died in the shooting that killed 17 people at a school in Parkland, Florida, in February.

“I had written to them in anger, to tell you the truth,” she said. “I thought he owed it to these grieving families.”

According to the former teacher, the letter she received did not address her concerns.

Instead, it listed a series of actions taken after the shooting, like listening sessions, meetings with lawmakers and the STOP School Violence Act, a bill that would authorise $500 million over 10 years for safety improvements at schools but had no provisions related to guns.

Some of the things Mason wrote in the letter were: “Have y’all tried grammar & style check?”

“Federal is capitalised only when used as part of a proper noun.”

There was more, but she did not correct everything.

“I did not mention the dangling modifier… I focused mainly on mechanics,” Mason told The New York Times.

“Nation” was capitalised, so was “states”. She circled both the words.

The letter stood in contrast to other letters she has received from politicians, Mason said.

Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, sent “beautiful” letters that struck a tone that “makes me more important than him”, she said.

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