Student released by North Korea now at hospital

Frederick Owens
June 14, 2017

NY [U.S.], June 13: American university student Otto Warmbier has been released after more than 17 months of detention in North Korea, but has been in coma for over a year.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says the State Department secured the 22-year-old's release at President Donald Trump's direction.

A statement issued in NY by a Rodman publicist said the former National Basketball Association player is in the rare position of being friends with the leaders of both North Korea and the United States.

Three more Americans are detained in North Korea but their fates have been hanging in the balance as Washington does not have a diplomatic mission in Pyongyang.

But the New York Times reported that a senior USA official said Washington obtained reports in recent weeks, indiciating Warmbier had been beaten while in North Korean custody.

Warmbier was detained in January 2016 and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in March of last year for trying to steal an item with a propaganda slogan, according to North Korean media.

Otto Warmbier, a 22-year-old University of Virginia student, was released after 17 months of detention in the communist nation.

"There is not a bilateral discussion I have with any government anywhere in the world, whether it's in Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia or Central and South America that we do not talk about their relationship with North Korea and asking them to examine all of those ties and even when they said, 'Oh we only have 5 million dollars worth of business, I say 'Make it two, '" he said.

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

The release came after Joseph Yun, the U.S. State Department's special envoy to Pyongyang had traveled to North Korea to demand his release on humanitarian grounds.

They also said they are grateful he "will finally be with people who love him".

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He was sentenced in March 2016 after a televised tearful public confession to trying to steal a propaganda banner.

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

Rodman, one of the few people to know both of the nuclear-armed leaders, sported dark sunglasses and athletic wear as he left his hotel in a black limo Wednesday morning without comment.

China has shown signs of exerting more pressure on Pyongyang, banning the import of North Korean coal and backing the UN's latest sanctions as a member of the Security Council.

He had been sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.

The timing of Warmbier's release suggests it was coordinated through back channels, as Rodman has only just arrived in North Korea, and such a deal would take a long time to arrange. He identified the church as Friendship United Methodist Church.

In a tearful statement before his trial, Warmbier told a gathering of reporters in Pyongyang he was offered a used auto worth $10,000 if he could get a propaganda banner and was also told that if he was detained and didn't return, $200,000 would be paid to his mother in the form of a charitable donation. Warmbier's family said in a statement that he is in a coma and on his way home.

Sen. Rob Portman of OH said in a statement that Tillerson had confirmed to him Warmbier's release.

Warmbier is a University of Virginia student from suburban Cincinnati.

Jeffrey Fowle, another US tourist from OH detained for six months at about the same time as Miller, was released just before that and sent home on a USA government plane. North Korea accuses Washington and South Korea of sending spies to overthrow its government. He said Warmbier's sentence was "unnecessary and appalling".

In November 2014, US spy chief James Clapper went to Pyongyang to bring home Matthew Miller, who had ripped up his visa when entering the country and was serving a six-year sentence on an espionage charge, and Korean-American missionary Kenneth Bae, who had been sentenced to 15 years for alleged anti-government activities. Fowle left a Bible in a local club hoping a North Korean would find it, which is considered a criminal offence in North Korea.

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