U.S. ramps up pressure on North Korea

North Korea (MNN) — The United States is ramping up pressure on North Korea, this time banning Americans from visiting the country altogether.

(Photo courtesy of John Pavelka via Flickr)

On Friday, U.S. officials announced that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will make it illegal to use U.S. passports to enter North Korea. The ban would most likely take effect late next month, 30 days after a notice is published in the Federal Register.

The restriction follows the death of University of Virginia student Otto Warmbier last month, as well as Pyongyang’s recent successful intercontinental ballistic missile test — the country’s first.

“It’s hard to look sort of behind the curtain at what all goes into a decision like this, and so far, this is from sources who haven’t been named,” Todd Nettleton of Voice of the Martyrs says. “It so far hasn’t been published in the Federal Register, which would then start the clock ticking on it being official.

“The fact that an American citizen was killed by this regime is certainly a factor in it, but the fact that our two countries are in a sort of brinkmanship campaign, certainly that also is a factor.”

North Korea is already one of the most isolated countries in the world. While the government restriction may seemingly hinder ministry efforts to the country, Nettleton says Voice of the Martyrs won’t be affected.

“I can only speak from the standpoint of the Voice of the Martyrs, and it will not change our ministry posture towards North Korea,” Nettleton says. “We were not dependent on being able to be in there. Because the country is so closed, Americans who go in are watched and followed very, very carefully, so it’s not like we could go in and meet with North Korean Christians. That would just get them arrested and executed.”

Otto Warmbier on trial in North Korea.

Instead, Voice of the Martyrs sends the Gospel from the outside in, using radio broadcasts and other creative means. Nettleton says he hears encouraging stories proving they’re making an impact.

“We do have some anecdotal evidence,” Nettleton says. “We have people who have escaped from North Korea who have talked about reading the Bible — in one case on an orange balloon, which was the balloons that we launched in the past that had the Gospel printed on them.

“The other thing we know is that the Bible promises that God’s Word will not return void. So if we are delivering Bibles, if we are delivering the Scripture, we trust in the promises of God that that will not return void, and some of those results we won’t hear until eternity.”

It takes great courage and creativity to bring the Gospel to a country like North Korea. Pray that the Good News would go forth and that people would respond with open hearts.

You can also help Voice the Martyrs continue finding new ways to bring the Gospel to countries like North Korea by giving financially. Click here to learn how.