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Trump's travel ban extended to block on North Korea

Donald Trump Photo: Getty Images

US President Donald Trump on Sunday slapped new travel restrictions on citizens from North Korea, Venezuela and Chad, expanding to eight the list of countries covered by his original travel bans that have been derided by critics and challenged in court.

Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Somalia were left on the list of affected countries in a new proclamation issued by the president. Restrictions on citizens from Sudan were lifted.

The measures help fulfill a campaign promise Trump made to tighten US immigration procedures and align with his "America First" foreign policy vision. Unlike the president's original bans, which had time limits, this one is open-ended.

"Making America Safe is my number one priority. We will not admit those into our country we cannot safely vet," the president said in a tweet shortly after the proclamation was released.

In a statement Sunday night, the White House called the new restrictions a "critical step toward establishing an immigration system that protects Americans' safety and security in an era of dangerous terrorism and transnational crime."

For the last three months, the administration used an executive order to ban foreign nationals from six Muslim-majority countries from entering the US unless they have a "bona fide" relationship with a person or entity in the country.

The addition of North Korea and Venezuela broadens the restrictions from the original, mostly Muslim-majority list.

An administration official, briefing reporters on a conference call, acknowledged that the number of North Koreans now traveling to the US was very low.

Trump has threatened to "destroy" North Korea if it attacks the US or its allies. Pyongyang earlier this month conducted its most powerful nuclear bomb test. The president has also directed harsh criticism at Venezuela, once hinting at a potential military option to deal with Caracas.

But the officials described the addition of the two countries to Trump's travel restrictions as the result of a purely objective review.

In the case of North Korea, where the suspension was sweeping and applied to both immigrants and non-immigrants, officials said it was hard for the US to validate the identity of someone coming from North Korea or to find out if that person was a threat.

“North Korea, quite bluntly, does not cooperate whatsoever,” one official said.

The new travel ban comes as Trump dialed up the rhetoric against North Korea again at the weekend, warning the country's foreign minister that he and leader Kim Jong-un "won't be around much longer", as Pyongyang staged a major anti-US rally.

North Korea's Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho told the United Nations General Assembly on Saturday that targeting the US mainland with its rockets was inevitable after "Mr Evil President" Trump called Pyongyang's leader a "rocket man" on a suicide mission.

"Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won't be around much longer!" Trump said on Twitter late on Saturday.

Trump and Kim have traded increasingly threatening and personal insults as Pyongyang races toward its goal of developing a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the US - something Trump has vowed to prevent.

Analysts say the heated rhetoric is increasing the risk of a miscalculation by one side or the other that could have massive repercussions.

North Korea's state-run television KRT aired a video on Sunday showing tens of thousands of people attending an anti-US rally at Kim Il-sung square in Pyongyang.

The North's official KCNA news agency said more than 100,000 people gathered for the rally on Saturday and delivered speeches supporting comments made by Kim earlier in the week.

In an unprecedented direct statement on Friday, Kim described Trump as a "mentally deranged US dotard" whom he would tame with fire.

Kim said the North would consider the "highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history" against the US and that Trump's comments had confirmed his nuclear program was "the correct path".

Trump threatened in his maiden UN address on Tuesday to "totally destroy" the country of 26 million people if North Korea threatened the US or its allies.


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