The State Department is urging U.S. citizens approved for travel to North Korea to make funeral arrangements before entering the country.
In an updated travel advisory, the U.S. government has outlined new recommendations for Americans on their way to Pyongyang.
Although travel to the country was banned on Sept. 1 following the death of American tourist Otto Warmbier, approved journalists, humanitarian workers and diplomats can still receive special validation from the State Department.
The travel guideline, which cites “the serious risk of arrest and long-term detention of U.S. nationals,” sternly advises travelers not only to draft a will, but to discuss “funeral wishes” with loved ones as well.
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The State Department ranks countries on a 1 to 4 level depending on the dangers present. Americans may “exercise normal precautions” in level 1 countries while level 4 nations are designated as no travel areas.
Level 4 nations include North Korea, Afghanistan, Central African Republic (CAR), Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
U.S. citizens requiring emergency assistance in North Korea are urged to contact the Embassy of Sweden in Pyongyang, though the State Department warns that Sweden is regularly denied access to Americans in need.
“The U.S. government is unable to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in North Korea as it does not have diplomatic or consular relations with North Korea,” the advisory states. “Sweden serves as the protecting power for the United States in North Korea, providing limited emergency services. The North Korean government routinely delays or denies Swedish officials access to detained U.S. citizens.”
Tensions remain high on the Korean Peninsula as the U.S. and its regional allies attempt to solve the problem of Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear weapons program.
On Tuesday Japanese public broadcaster NHK inadvertently issued an alert warning that North Korea had launched a ballistic missile. NHK was able to issue a correction minutes after the initial error.
“This happened because equipment to send a news flash onto the Internet had been incorrectly operated. We are deeply sorry,” an NHK announcer said.
Japan’s false alarm came only days after a similar incident in Hawaii in which residents were warned of an incoming ballistic missile as well. Hawaiian officials, who also blamed human error, took approximately 38 minutes to issue a retraction, leading to widespread panic among residents.