North Korea Is Courting Russian Tourists After U.S. Travel Ban

North Korea monument
Members of the Korean military and civilians visit statues of President Kim Il Sung and leader Kim Jong Il on the occasion of the 72nd anniversary of national liberation in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency, on August 15. North Korea’s new tourism agency, run with help from the embassy, will offer Russians deals to visit “one of the safest countries in the world.” KCNA/Reuters

With a ban on U.S. citizens traveling to North Korea reportedly set to come into effect next month, Pyongyang has unveiled a contingency plan: It is courting Russian tourists.

With permission from the North Korean government, the travel company NKOREAN.RU launched in Russia on Thursday. The event was attended by the head of Russia's tourism agencies union and an adviser to North Korea's ambassador in Moscow.

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"I hope that the NKOREAN company will make a breakthrough," the union president, Sergey Golov, said at the launch press conference, the Interfax news agency reports. "I think that the odds of growth look good. On our part we will support the company in question in an informational way."

NKOREAN will work with the support of North Korea's embassy in Russia, and the embassy adviser, Kim Sung Hoon, said at the event that tourists should not worry about their safety when considering a visit to the rogue state.

"The People's Democratic Republic of Korea is one of the safest countries in the world," he said at the launch event. "We guarantee the comprehensive safety of tourists who follow the law and order of the country." He added that the nuclear capabilities of the country—the cause of the U.S. sanctions—"totally guarantee security and peace on the Korean peninsula."

The company's official Russian website offers tour packages starting from Russia's eastern port of Vladivostok. Tours are available in Russian, English, French and Mandarin.

North Korea's expanding nuclear missile capabilities and stated ambitions to one day be able to strike the U.S. and any other part of the world with a launch from its own territory have generated condemnation among existing nuclear powers such as the U.S., the U.K., France and even China and Russia.

The latter two have also condemned U.S. moves to strengthen its military allies in the region, most specifically South Korea, which is the top political target for any signs of irritation in Pyongyang.

While China and Russia supported U.S. sanctions against North Korea in the U.N. Security Council earlier this month, the draft included little sacrifice regarding Russia's few but significant ties to North Korea.

"Russia is quite happy with the language of the new U.N. Security Council resolution, since it secures most of Russian commercial interests with regard to North Korea," Alexander Gabuev, chairman of the Russia in the Asia-Pacific Program at the Carnegie Moscow Center, told Newsweek earlier this month.

North Korea sends thousands of workers on temporary employment trips to Russia, and the sanctions package does not restrict their movement. Less than three months before the sanctions, a rare ferry link between North Korea and the rest of the world was launched, docking in Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet at a BRICS summit next month to discuss North Korea and other issues.