One day before President Donald Trump arrived in China as part of his Asian tour, the country banned tourism to North Korea, hitting one of the hermetic nation’s few reliable revenue streams.
Tour companies operating in the Chinese city of Dandong, which borders North Korea, were told by the Dandong Tourism Bureau to halt trips to Pyongyang ahead of Trump’s visit to China. They were only allowed to offer one-day tours of Sinuiju, a smaller city right across the broder.
The order was “very unexpected” and “devastating news,” one Chinese tour operator told Reuters. Dandong is home to most of the tour operators offering trips to North Korea, with some lasting for days.
As the United Nations over the past year has ratcheted up sanctions on North Korea, the country testing nuclear weapons and threatening the U.S. has lost currency from its exports like coal, seafood and textiles due to sanctions.
Tourism generates about $44 million in revenue per year for North Korea and 80 percent of all foreign visitors are from China, according to the South Korea-based think tank the Korea Maritime Institute. More than 237,000 Chinese traveled to North Korea in 2012, the last year that China tracked the visitor data.
The U.S. banned travel to North Korea this summer after the death of Otto Warmbier, a 22-year-old University of Virginia student who was kept in captivity for more than a year and died soon after arriving back in the U.S. in a coma. He had entered North Korea through the China-based Young Pioneer Tours company.
On day one of Trump’s “state visit-plus” he was treated to a tour of the Forbidden City, a night at the opera and an intimate dinner with President Xi Jinping. “Beyond terrific,” Trump boasted.
Trump announced Saturday that Chinese President Xi Jinping told him he plans to implement new sanctions against North Korea.
“President Xi of China has stated that he is upping the sanctions against #NoKo. Said he wants them to denuclearize. Progress is being made,” Trump tweeted.
Trump is abroad on a 12-day Asia-Pacific trip during which he has been meeting with regional leaders with a heavy emphasis on curbing North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.