Amid diplomatic contact, North Korea frees American student

Nick Mcbride
June 14, 2017

Warmbier, 22, a University of Virginia student from suburban Cincinnati, was on his way back to the United States, Tillerson said in a statement.

Otto Warmbier, an American university student held prisoner in North Korea for 17 months and said by his family to be in a coma, was medically evacuated from the reclusive country after a rare visit there from a high-level United States official.

"Mr. Warmbier is en route to the United States, where he will be reunited with his family".

Tillerson said that the State Department secured the release at the direction of President Trump.

Warmbier has been in a coma for over a year, according to his parents.

When he was taken into North Korean custody in January of 2016, Warmbier was on a tour of the country while on break from the University of Virginia.

Warmbier had been serving a 15-year prison term.

- South Korean-born US citizen Kim Dong Chul, who was sentenced in April 2016 to 10 years in prison with hard labor after being convicted of espionage.

Tillerson says the State Department continues discussing three other detained Americans with North Korea.

"My goal is to go over there and try to see if I can keep bringing sports to North Korea", the athlete told reporters at the airport. North Korea is expecting another visit by Rodman on Tuesda.

North Korea on Tuesday freed one of the detainees, Otto Warmbier.

Warmbier left his captivity the same day former National Basketball Association star Dennis Rodman arrived inNorth Korea for his fifth trip to the country, which drew global media attention.

Lee said South Korea is also making efforts to seek the release of its own citizens now held in North Korea.

In the past, North Korea has held out until senior USA officials or statesmen came to personally bail out detainees, all the way up to former President Bill Clinton, whose visit in 2009 secured the freedom of American journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling.

Certainly Mr. Trump is aware of Mr. Rodman's visit, but the former athlete's trip doesn't have official backing.

Two Ohio senators are denouncing North Korea after a resident of their state was said to be in a coma after being released from a prison in that country.

His parents told the Washington Post newspaper their son is in a coma and has been for over a year.

"We want the world to know how we and our son have been brutalized and terrorized by the pariah regime" in North Korea, the Warmbiers said in a statement quoted by the AP. Nauert said the last consular visit to Warmbier, by Swedish diplomats, was March 2.

We also learn that it is most unlikely that Dennis Rodman was a part of the discussions about Mr. Warmbier or the arrangements for his return.

"Otto's detainment and sentence was unnecessary and appalling, and North Korea should be universally condemned for its abhorrent behavior".

Republican Sen. Rob Portman of OH said in a statement that Tillerson had confirmed to him Warmbier's release. Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Cleveland described North Korea's actions as "despicable".

Rodman said the issue of several Americans detained by North Korea is "not my objective right now", in remarks made in Beijing before the release of Warmbier was publicly disclosed.

The North Korean court held that Warmbier had committed a crime "pursuant to the USA government's hostile policy toward (the North), in a bid to impair the unity of its people after entering it as a tourist". He was sentenced in March after a televised tearful public confession to trying to steal a propaganda banner.

Other reports by VgToday

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