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North Korea disparages new U.S. visa policy

By Elizabeth Shim
North Korea disparages new U.S. visa policy
Tourists take a photos from the North Korean Panmungak at the joint security area in the demilitarized zone near Paju, South Korea. Visitors to North Korea are to receive greater scrutiny when applying for a U.S. visa, a policy North Korea mentioned in a verbal attack targeting Seoul and Washington. Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 19 (UPI) -- North Korea is slamming the United States for prohibiting foreign passport holders from traveling visa-free, if they visited the reclusive nation as private citizens.

Pyongyang's propaganda outlet Uriminzokkiri said Monday the United States is "humiliating" the South Korean people by implementing a new policy that is most likely to have the greatest impact on the South -- a country included in the United States' Visa Waiver Program.

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"The more [a country] acts obsequiously and subserviently, the greater the shame and humiliation," Uriminzokkiri said in a statement that took aim at South Korea policy. "That is the serious lesson for the pitiful predicament of contemporary South Korea."

The new policy from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection comes at a time when Seoul continues to pursue a policy of engagement in spite of recent North Korea weapons tests.

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All South Korean passport holders are eligible to travel visa-free to the United States, provided they submit an Electronic System for Travel Authorization application at least 72 hours prior to travel.

South Korean citizens who visited the North after March 1, 2011 for non-governmental purposes are no longer eligible for ESTA, which facilitates travel authorization online. All foreign nationals of VWP countries must now apply for a separate visa in person by visiting a U.S. embassy.

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On Monday Uriminzokkiri said the policy "criminalizes the righteous act" of South Koreans who visited North Korea for the "development of North-South relations, for peace and prosperity."

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North Korea has also condemned joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises while building military ties with China, its closest partner.

Yonhap reported Sunday North Korea's Kim Su Gil, director of the General Political Bureau of the Korean People's Army met with Zhang Youxia, vice chairman of China's Central Military Commission.

The meeting took place on Saturday and the two sides agreed to "strengthen communication, and promote cooperation and mutual support."

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Beijing and Pyongyang also promised to take the "two armed forces to a higher level," according to Yonhap.

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