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North Korea releases USA student Otto Warmbier

North Korea releases USA student Otto Warmbier

And how does the Trump administration respond?

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

Nearly immediately on taking office in January, Trump and his team - having been briefed by the outgoing president Barack Obama - declared the North's attempts to build, test and arm a nuclear-capable ballistic missile as Washington's biggest threat. Former NBA star Dennis Rodman made his fifth visit to the country, telling reporters before his arrival that he hoped to "open a door" between Kim and the rest of the world.

Washington and Pyongyang are negotiating for their release.

"Sadly, he is in a coma and we have been told he has been in that condition since March 2016", the parents said in a statement. "In no uncertain terms, North Korea must explain the causes of his coma".

In the past, North Korea has held out until senior USA officials or statesmen came to personally bail out detainees.

The last time Rodman visited North Korea, he delighted the country's young ruler with a rendition of "Happy Birthday", suffered an angry meltdown on CNN while defending his trip, and spent time at a rehab facility after returning to the United States.

Warmbier said before his trial that he tried to steal the propaganda poster as a trophy for an acquaintance, who offered him a used auto worth $13,200 in exchange for the item. He was charged with "hostile acts against the state".

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Following a brief trial broadcast by North Korean state television, Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years in prison and hard labor. Moon - a liberal who has historically worked for rapprochement, rather than confrontation, with the North - was critical of some aspects of US policy in the region ahead of his election. Officials involved in negotiations to free Warmbier and another American citizen who is being detained were told they were being treated as prisoners of war.

The New York Times quoted a senior U.S. official as saying Washington recently received intelligence reports that Warmbier had been repeatedly beaten in custody.

Department of State spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters Rodman had nothing to do with Warmbier's release. While it is a secular school - North Korea keeps a tight grip on information about religion - the university chiefly employs Christian staff.

Tillerson says that Warmbier is on his way back to the U.S.to be re-united with his family.

But the important thing in the immediate future is Mr. Warmbier's health.

"On whether these two incidents are related, one should directly ask the country concerned", he said during a regular press briefing.

Otto Warmbier, 22, is now on his way back to the United States where he will be reunited with his family, Tillerson said in a statement.

The North Korean account, the family said, claimed that Warmbier then fell into a coma after being given a sleeping pill. There had been only one reported consular visit with Warmbier from Swedish diplomats in March 2016.

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There was no immediate confirmation from US officials of North Korea's description of his illness - including whether he was stricken with botulism, a potentially fatal disease that is caused by a toxin but is not usually associated with loss of consciousness.

"The Department of State continues to have discussions with the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] regarding three other USA citizens reported detained", the statement said.

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.

Rodman, who is known as much for his piercings, ever-changing hair colors and off-court antics as his basketball skills, has developed an unlikely relationship with the North Korean leader since making his first trip there in 2013. "He doesn't deserve this", Fred Warmbier told The Enquirer in an interview last month. "We get to see our son Otto tonight". With concern mounting over Warmbier's deteriorating condition since the State Department learned of it in early June, a delegation arrived in Pyongyang on June 12 that included a State Department representative and a medical team. Tillerson said the department would have no further comment on Warmbier and his condition, citing privacy concerns.

It is good to have him returned to his family and to better medical care.

Coincidentally (or not), Dennis Rodman is now in North Korea. Shortly after Warmbier's sentencing, Kim Dong-chul, was arrested on accusations of espionage, and has been held ever since.

The U.S. government condemned the sentence and accused North Korea of using such American detainees as political pawns.

Asked whether he was working on the release of detained Americans, he said, "that is not my goal right now".

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