Basketball diplomacy in North Korea as United States student is released

Nick Mcbride
June 14, 2017

— 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.

In rare high-level contacts, Yun met senior North Korean officials in Oslo in May, where it was agreed that Swedish officials in Pyongyang, who handle US consular affairs there, would be allowed to see all four American detainees, a State Department official said.

Yun demanded his release and North Korea complied on Tuesday, according to the State Department.

A United States delegation made up of Yun and a medical team was sent to North Korea on Monday to secure Warmbier's release, the official said, adding that they demanded to visit Warmbier upon arrival in Pyongyang.

The State Department said it was continuing to try to secure the release of three other Americans imprisoned in North Korea.

Although details concerning the exact objective of Rodman's visit remain unknown, some analysts believe the retired basketball star is seeking to relay a message from President Donald Trump, who had previously lauded his attempts to engage North Korea following the country's repeated recent attempts to launch nuclear missile strikes.

Mr Rodman is one of few people to have met both North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump. He has said he is just going to have a good time but has also hinted he is "trying to open a door" for better relations between Washington and Pyongyang.

Rodman, wearing a shirt advertising PotCoin, the online currency used to buy and sell legal marijuana, promoted and thanked the group for sponsoring the trip before saying that he iss making the trip so that "the door can be a little bit open" between the US and North Korea.

One State Department source also told CNN that Rodman's visit was completely unrelated to Warmier's release. "But we have issued travel warnings to Americans and suggested they not travel to North Korea for their own safety". A week before his release, his parents learned that their son had been in a coma since March 2016.

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Warmbier's parents did not attend the graduation ceremony in May, but they shared the news of Otto's release with the student body via an email from University President Teresa Sullivan on Tuesday.

Americans have been sentenced to years in North Korean prisons for such seemingly minor offenses as stealing a political banner and likely could not expect leniency if the country's drug laws were violated. "This is the North Korean version of events".

Three weeks later, North Korea announced it was holding him for a "hostile act" against the state.

The State Department says former National Basketball Association star Dennis Rodman, who is visiting North Korea, had nothing to do with the release of a detained American college student.

On Tuesday, Otto Warmbier, an American student at University of Virginia, was medically evacuated from imprisonment in North Korea after having been sentenced to 15 years of hard labor more than a year ago.

North Korea regularly accuses Washington and Seoul of sending spies to overthrow its government to enable the USA -backed South Korean government to control the Korean Peninsula.

Direct, formal talks between Washington and Pyongyang have been on ice since North Korea dropped a proposal in early 2016 to engage in formal peace talks with the Obama administration to officially end the Korean War.

The statement from Leigh contradicts the more serious claim North Korea made in May.

The latest visit comes amid high tensions between Washington and Pyongyang - which is now holding 4 Americans - following a series of missile tests by the North, which have triggered tightened United Nations sanctions.

Other reports by VgToday

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