WASHINGTON • United States Republican and Democratic congressmen have introduced a Bill that would ban Americans from travelling to North Korea as tourists, and require them to obtain special permission for other types of visits.
Democrat Adam Schiff and Republican Joe Wilson said on Thursday their proposed North Korea Travel Control Act followed the detention of at least 17 Americans in North Korea in the past decade.
North Korea has a record of using detained Americans to extract high-profile visits from the US, with which it has no formal diplomatic relations.
"With increased tensions in North Korea, the danger that Americans will be detained for political reasons is greater than ever," the congressmen said in a statement.
Given North Korea's "demonstrated willingness to use American visitors as bargaining chips to extract high level meetings or concessions, it is appropriate for the United States to take steps to control travel to a nation that poses a real and present danger to American interests", they said.
Four Americans are being held in North Korea as diplomatic tensions with Washington have heightened.
Two of them, detained in the past month, are affiliated with a private university in the North Korean capital.
A congressional source said the Bill would ban tourist travel by Americans outright, while any other visits would require a special licence from the Treasury Department.