July 21 (UPI) -- Amid continuing tensions with North Korea, the U.S. State Department said Friday it will impose a total travel ban for all U.S. citizens to the Asian nation.
In making the move, officials cited a serious risk of arrest and imprisonment in North Korea.
The official confirmation of the ban came after Koryo Tours and Young Pioneer Tours, travel agencies specializing in tours to North Korea, disclosed the pending change.
The travel ban follows the death this summer of U.S. citizen Otto Warmbier -- who visited North Korea last year on a Young Pioneers tour. He was ultimately accused and convicted of stealing a propaganda poster, spent 18 months in prison and returned home in June in a coma. He died days later.
The risk of further detentions of citizens prompted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to authorize "a Geographical Travel Restriction on all U.S. citizen nationals' use of a passport to travel in, through, or to North Korea," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said. "Individuals seeking to travel to North Korea for certain limited humanitarian or other purposes may apply to the Department of State for a special validation passport," she added.
The new restriction will become official 30 days after a notice is published in the next week's Federal Register.
The ban supersedes prior State Department warnings that discouraged -- but did not expressly forbid -- travel to North Korea.