May 21, 2018

North Korea releases United States citizen Otto Warmbier

20 June 2017, 01:15 | Guillermo Sutton

North Korea releases United States citizen Otto Warmbier

Two people hug outside the plane carrying Otto Warmbier a 22-year-old University of Virginia undergraduate student who was imprisoned in North Korea in March 2016 before he is transferred from a transport aircraft to an amb

"Sadly, he is in a coma and we have been told he has been in that condition since March of 2016", the parents said in a statement.

He was arrested in January last year for allegedly stealing a political propaganda sign from a hotel in North Korea and was later sentenced to 15 years of hard labor. The North Koreans "were informed that the airplane would land".

He was given a sleeping pill and had been in a coma ever since, the newspaper said.

Warmbier, a University of Virginia undergraduate, was convicted and sentenced in a one-hour trial in North Korea's Supreme Court in March 2016. A department of state spokeswoman said the former basketball player had nothing to do with Warmbier's release.

A White House official says the May meeting in Oslo was attended by Joseph Yun, the US envoy to North Korea.

Asked whether he had spoken with Trump about his trip, Rodman said: "I'm pretty sure he's pretty much happy with the fact that I'm over here trying to accomplish something that we both need". Yun met North Korea's ambassador to the United Nations on June 6 and was told about Warmbier's condition, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) - Dennis Rodman's visit to North Korea has been uncharacteristically low-key so far.

The 56-year-old NBA Hall of Famer, who was heavily criticized for failing to raise the plight of a jailed United States missionary on a previous trip, said discussing detained USA citizens was "not my goal right now". "They were never really certain if those were actually from him or if it was just a ploy because you can never trust what the North Koreans are saying or telling you", family friend Michael Forsythe said. Warmbier's parents said in a statement Tuesday that he had been freed by the Communist state but had to be medically evacuated because he was in a coma.

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Three other Americans remain imprisoned in North Korea.

U.S. Senator Rob Portman of OH said: "Otto's detainment and sentence was unnecessary and appalling, and North Korea should be universally condemned for its abhorrent behaviour". Earlier this year, as we discussed in this space, there were fears that Trump was participating in a unsafe escalation of tensions in the region.

"We received a call from Cindy and Fred Warmbier early today to update us on Otto's condition".

The BBC's Stephen Evans in Seoul says it remains to be seen if Mr Warmbier's illness is the direct result of brutality in prison. Kenneth Bae, an American who was detained for two years in the North from 2012, told the Korea JoongAng Daily last month he was forced to confess his crime and also to fabricate some parts of his story.

On Tuesday, American student Otto Warmbier returned home to Cincinatti, Ohio after serving 17 months in a North Korean detention center.

Speaking to reporters in Beijing before his arrival in Pyongyang on Tuesday, he said that the issue of several Americans detained by North Korea is "not my goal right now".

It is the first time that the USA administration has confirmed the dispatch of a ranking official to North Korea since President Donald Trump took office in January. Two of them - Kim Hak Song and Kim Sang Duk - are teachers of Korean origin who worked at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, and the third is a South Korea-born American named Kim Dong-chul. It is imperative that the State Department continue its efforts to secure their release.

Rodman said in a tweet ahead of his trip: "I'm back!" In this undated photo published on September 7, 2013, on the homepage of North Korea's Rodong Sinmun newspaper, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, talks with former National Basketball Association player Dennis Rodman during a dinner.

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