According to Reuters, the tours got the green light after last week's surprise end to the latest round of six-party talks in Beijing, when North Korea and the United States signed a landmark deal in which Pyongyang agreed to give up its nuclear weapons programs in exchange for aid and security guarantees.
Nick Bonner, the British founder and organizer of Beijing-based Koryo Tours, says the rare opening to U.S. travelers was a clear sign of an easing of tensions between the two sides:
With the six-party talks going better than a lot of people forecast, there is a general good feeling at the moment, a more friendly feeling.Now that he has official approval to lead three groups of Americans to North Korea next month, Bonner said he expects about 100 people to sign up. Americans were last admitted in 1995 and 2002, when the Arirang Mass Games were held before. Reuters describes the games as "the world's biggest choreographed extravaganza, part circus act, part rhythmic gymnastics floor, with plenty of reverence for 'Dear Leader' Kim Jong-il."
Americans will also get to see the USS Pueblo, while talking up the benefits of world-wide Juche with two guides (two are needed to keep an eye on each other).