The Republican and Democratic lawmakers presented their North Korea Travel Control Act on Thursday citing the dangers of US citizens being detained by the rogue state for “political reasons”.
Democrat Adam Schiff and Republican Joe Wilson said their bill was written in response to the detention of at least 17 Americans in North Korea in the past decade.
They claim North Korea has a record of using detained Americans to extract high-profile visits from the United States, with which it has no formal diplomatic relations.
The bill comes as diplomatic tensions between Washington and Pyongyang have heightened.
Kim Jong-un’s regime claims it has been provoked by US “bullying” and has vowed to continue building their nuclear weapons in defiance of United Nations sanctions.
In a statement, the congressmen said: “With increased tensions in North Korea, the danger that Americans will be detained for political reasons is greater than ever.”
They added that given North Korea’s “demonstrated willingness to use American visitors as bargaining chips to extract high level meetings or concessions, it is appropriate for the United States to take steps to control travel to a nation that poses a real and present danger to American interests”.
Four Americans are being held in North Korea, including 22-year-old student Otto Warmbier who was sentenced to 15 years of hard labour for allegedly trying to steal a propaganda flag last year.
Two Americans in past month were affiliated with a private university in the North Korean capital.
A congressional source said the bill would ban tourist travel by Americans outright, while any other visits would require a special license from the Treasury Department, which is enforcing a wide range of sanctions on North Korea over its nuclear and missile programs.
North Korea this month asserted its sovereign right to “ruthlessly punish” US citizens it has detained for crimes against the government.
The despot nation also said calling such arrests bargaining ploys was “pure ignorance”.
Kim Hake Song, who worked for the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, was detained on May 7 by the dictatorship on suspicion of “hostile acts”.
Another American, Kim Sang Dok, who was associated with the same school, was detained in April on the same charge.
While Kim Dong Chul, a 62-year-old Korean-American missionary was sentenced to 10 years hard labor for subversion last year.