Two travel agencies that operate tours to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea have said that the United States is preparing to ban travel to the country for its citizens.
Both Koryo Tours and Young Pioneer Tours have said that the ban will be announced officially on July 27th and will take effect within 30 days.
The United States government has not yet released an announcement or confirmation.
"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.
“We have just been informed that the U.S. government will no longer be allowing U.S. citizens to travel to the DPRK (North Korea),” the statement released by Young Pioneer Tours said.
“It is expected that the ban will come into force within 30 days of July 27th. After the 30 day grace period any U.S. national that travels to North Korea will have their passport invalidated by their government,” it said.
Rowan Beard at Young Pioneer Tours told the BBC that they had been notified of the impending ban by the Swedish embassy, which currently manages U.S. diplomatic affairs in the DPRK. The United States does not currently have formal diplomatic relations with the country.
Both tour groups regularly take tourists from around the world to the DPRK for a variety of sight-seeing and cultural exchange activities. They also both arrange for foreigners who wish to participate in the Pyongyang marathon.
“Whether you want to experience the DPRK's national holidays and related festivities; explore the towns or countryside; learn more about its art and culture; or even ski, cycle or hike there – we will have the tour for you,” Koryo Group says on its website about its services.
Young Pioneer Tours is the group that the U.S. student Otto Warmbier travelled with, who was arrested in the country after attempting to steal a banner. He died shortly after being returned to the United States in a coma. The circumstances and cause of his death are still unclear.
According to the Young Pioneer Tours website, “despite what you may hear.... North Korea is probably one of the safest places on Earth to visit provided you follow the laws.”
They have however already stopped providing tours to U.S. citizens to the country due to “recent cases of severe unwarranted consequences for American detainees.”
The announcement comes amidst rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula, with the United States threatening increased sanctions against the DPRK following their recent successful test of a ballistic missile. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, has said that a “military option” is on the table.