Photo Credit: Screenshot
Otto Warmbier (BD"E) at his show trial in North Korea

Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued an unusually blunt warning to the nation’s citizens this past week in the wake of Pyongyang’s test launch of a new intercontinental ballistic missile with a range long enough to reach Alaska.

“The public should be aware that in the event an Israeli citizen encounters any kind of distress during his stay in that country, Israeli representatives will not be able to be of assistance or to provide any response,” the ministry spokesperson said.

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That warning is an upgrade from a caution issued in April, one that is underscored by the sober reality check American citizens got last month with the return of U.S. citizen Otto Warmbier, who was returned to his parents by North Korea in a coma after nearly 18 months in captivity. Warmbier died just a few days later after reaching U.S. soil, never having regained consciousness, but at least having returned to the embrace of his loved ones. Three other Americans are still being held hostage by Pyongyang.

“Given the increased tension in the region and the fact that North Korea is under a very comprehensive regime of international sanctions, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs cautions Israeli citizens not to travel to North Korea for any purpose whatsoever,” the warning says.

“The international sanctions include severe restrictions on all financial and business cooperation as well as on trade, and even on private purchase of souvenirs or other goods. It should be taken into account that those who violate these international sanctions may be tried and even punished.

“In addition, as the State of Israel has no diplomatic relations with North Korea, the public should be aware that in the event an Israeli citizen encounters any kind of distress during his stay in that country, Israeli representatives will not be able to be of assistance or to provide any response.”

At least one travel agency in Tel Aviv has advertised tours to North Korea, and earlier this year was supposed to have taken a group to Pyongyang and to China for an “organized pioneering trip.” It’s not clear whether in fact that trip took place or not, but the website of the tour agency is now advertising again for trips to North Korea, this time booking for 11-day trips in September and in October, so apparently they are still in business. (Travel code TGNK)

According to the advertisement, the tour includes “monuments in the capital of Pyongyang, the remote areas of the country in the mountains and the picturesque beaches on the east coast.”

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.