Economy

North Korea frees American student said to be in coma

North Korea frees American student said to be in coma

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said his agency had "secured" the 22-year-old's release in talks with North Korea and is pushing for three more Americans to be freed.

Otto Warmbier, the American student arrested in North Korea about a year and a half ago for stealing a poster with propaganda slogans, was released from captivity.

March 2016: Warmbier is sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.

Swedish diplomats, who represent the USA in North Korea, were denied access to visit Mr Warmbier, the Washington Post reported.

In the past, North Korea has held out until senior US officials or statesmen came to personally bail out detainees. A person who answered the phone at Warmbier's family's OH residence said: "No comment, thank you" and hung up.

According to the Washington Post, North Korean officials contacted American counterparts last week to tell them Warmbier was in a coma.

Warmbier's parents, Fred and Cindy, confirmed their son was on a medevac flight, which was due to arrive on Tuesday evening USA time.

"Our son is coming home", Fred Warmbier told the Washington Post.

Rodman, in an interview with CNN before landing in North Korea, said he was "trying to accomplish something we both need", referring to himself and the Trump administration.

"While the entire University of Virginia community is relieved to learn of Otto's release from North Korea, we are deeply concerned and saddened to learn from his family that he is in a coma".

There is a chance that the return to North Korea of former National Basketball Association (NBA) player Dennis Rodman could help efforts to release the three other Americans being held there. He was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for attempting to steal a propaganda poster from a hotel, he said, to give to a friend in the United States in exchange for a used auto. At the meeting, North Korea agreed that Swedish diplomats could visit all four American detainees. On Tuesday, Warmbier was reportedly released from North Korea and evacuated to the US, bringing his 15-year prison sentence to an early end. Instead, he was apprehended on January 2, 2016 at the Pyongyang International Airport on charges of committing a "hostile act" against the state, as he was preparing to leave the country.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders, speaking to reporters on Air Force One, said "bringing Otto home was a big priority for the president".

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

The trip marks Rodman's fifth to North Korea.

Warmbier is a University of Virginia undergraduate from suburban Cincinnati.

It was not immediately clear if Mr Rodman's visit to North Korea was purely coincidental with Mr Warmbier's release.

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 behavior".

PotCoin, a cryptocurrency that is sponsoring Rodman's trip, didn't give an explicit reason for its sponsorship of Rodman's North Korea visit, but the cryptocurrency has seen its value go on the rise since it started seeing some publicity thanks to the stunt.

In his letter, Rodman called Kim his "friend for life", and said he understood that Bae carried out crimes.

Tillerson, at a U.S. Senate hearing on Tuesday, declined to comment on Warmbier's condition. He said Warmbier's sentence was "unnecessary and appalling".


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