Authorities in China significantly limited tourism to North Korea before President Donald Trump’s arrival in the country on Wednesday, sources revealed to Reuters.
Tour operators in the border city of Dadong were informed that the majority of tours would be suspended until further notice, apart from one-day trips to the North Korean city of Sinuiju just across the border, which remains a popular destination for Chinese tourists.
Reuters revealed the news as Trump began his visit to China late Tuesday, where he is meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping, with escalating North Korea tensions as the main focus of talks.
“It was very unexpected, we had no idea this was going to happen until we received the notification today,” an anonymous tour operator who runs trips to North Korea out of Dandong told the agency. “This is devastating news for us.”
“It’s low season right now, but that’s unlikely to be the reason,” said another anonymous industry source. “It’s much more likely to be connected to increasing sanctions against North Korea. We’ll have to wait and see what happens once Trump leaves China. Maybe they will loosen the rules but it’s very hard to say. This is all connected to the growing tensions.”
Although heavily restricted, North Korea’s tourist industry is one of the few ways the regime obtains hard cash, with the South Korean think-tank the Korea Maritime Institute estimating that tourism generates about $44 million in annual revenue for the regime, with 80 percent of those tourists being Chinese.
In June this year, the State Department banned Americans from the country following the death of American college student Otto Warmbier after returning to the United States in a coma. Warmbier had been imprisoned for over a year on charges of committing “hostile acts” against the regime.
Trump has repeatedly sought to pressure the Chinese government for their lack of action in reducing the North Korean threat and has even threatened to entirely cut off trade with any nation that continues to do trade with North Korea:
The United States is considering, in addition to other options, stopping all trade with any country doing business with North Korea.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 3, 2017
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang claimed China was making “arduous efforts to peacefully resolve” the issue, although latest trade figures show that China has increased its exports to the hermit state by 21 percent over the past year.
Diplomats in both Japan and South Korea recently warned that North Korea’s capacity to use nuclear weapons is “imminent,” as the country pledges to deliver an “unimaginable strike at an unimaginable time” on the United States.