US tells visitors to North Korea: make a will
American citizens who wish to visit North Korea should write a will, make funeral arrangements and designate carers for their children and pets, a chilling travel advisory from the US State Department has warned.
The fresh advice was issued last week, reported Fox News, and comes on the back of new rules issued last year that now require Americans to apply for a special validation to travel to the hermit kingdom, which is only handed out in "very limited circumstances".
The travel ban was enforced in the aftermath of the death of US student Otto Warmbier (22), who was arrested by the North Koreans while on holiday in Pyongyang and sentenced to 15 years of hard labour. He returned home last summer in a mysterious coma and died shortly afterwards.
The state department cautions that it will be unable to offer emergency assistance as it has no embassy in the country, and recommends that travellers prepare for the worst. "Draft a will and designate appropriate insurance beneficiaries and/or power of attorney; discuss a plan with loved ones regarding care/custody of children, pet, property, belongings, non-liquid assets (collections, artwork, etc)," says the recommendation.
President Donald Trump designated North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism in November, citing Kim Jong-un's 'murderous' rogue regime and Warmbier's death as the reasons.
North Korea is also classified as a 'Level 4 - Do Not Travel' country, alongside Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, Mali, Yemen, Libya and Somalia.
The new advisory appears to have been issued despite a tentative thaw in relations between North and South Korea, who have met twice in the past week, and for the first time in over two years, to discuss Pyongyang's participation in the February Winter Olympics.
But while offering an olive branch to the South, Kim Jong-un has done little to defuse hostility with the US, reiterating last week that his missiles were pointing in America's direction.
Senior American officials have also reportedly discussed a limited military strike, or "bloody nose", option to contain Pyongyang's advancing nuclear programme.
The US, meanwhile, is continuing to bolster its presence around the Korean Peninsula by deploying stealth bombers, at least one extra aircraft carrier and a new amphibious assault ship to the region.
It also emerged yesterday that the same North Korean hacking outfit associated with the Sony data theft was behind attacks on South Korean cryptocurrency users and exchanges toward the end of last year.
Lazarus Group, thought be tied to the North Korean government, launched a so-called spear-phishing campaign against crypto users in the weeks preceding the opening of talks with South Korea, according to a report from Insikt, a research team at Recorded Future.
The cybersecurity company said it found technical similarities between those incursions and other North Korean-linked activities, including the data heist at Sony Pictures and the WannaCry ransomware attack.