Published: Tue, June 20, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

US State Secretary: North Korea Frees American Citizen

US State Secretary: North Korea Frees American Citizen

CINCINNATI (AP) - An American college student who was released from a North Korean prison is finally home but in a coma and undergoing treatment at an OH hospital where he was taken shortly after arriving on USA soil. The next month he gave a tearful public confession, and that March he was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for a "hostile act" against the state.

According to the Post, the 22-year-old University of Virginia student has been in a coma since being convicted in a one-hour trial in Pyongyang in March 2016, accused of stealing a propaganda banner from a hotel.

"It wasn't a situation where they asked", one official said of the USA representatives. "We want the world to know how we and our son have been brutalized and terrorized by the pariah regime in North Korea". In 2014 he drew criticism after being filmed singing happy birthday to Kim Jong-un.

"At the direction of the president, the Department of State has secured the release of Otto Warmbier from North Korea".

It's uncertain what the future holds for the Warmbier family, but well-wishes for his return and recovery have poured in from across the United States.

A North Korean foreign ministry official said Warmbier was released and left the country Tuesday morning. "Over the last 18 months, they have had to endure more than any family should have to bear". The North Korean government reportedly arranged a limited press conference that was covered by South Korea's Yonhap News Agency and China's state-run Xinhua. The brutalization and terrorism the North Koreans have put upon Otto and the Warmbier family have ended.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with his family as they continue to battle for Otto's life". North Korea accuses Washington and South Korea of sending spies to overthrow its government.

Tillerson said the State Department is still working to secure the release of three other USA citizens detained in North Korea.

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, confirmed the release but did not comment on Warmbier's health.

Leigh and Kim may not have seen each other, as a room divider separated the two men, but Leigh said he heard North Korean security agents accuse "Professor Kim" of spreading "a pro-West curriculum" at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, a school that opened in 2010 as the first privately funded institution in North Korea. He was serving a 15-year service for pinching a poster while on a student trip to North Korea.

Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown said "North Korea's despicable actions in detaining and holding Otto were unacceptable and must be condemned".

Last week North Korean officials told Yun of Warmbier's medical condition.

On May 21, the day Warmbier would have graduated, UVA student leaders distributed "Free Otto" stickers and organized a tribute in his honor.

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

Lu said he has "consistently" welcomed and supported greater dialogue and contact between North Korea and the US - as countries directly involved in the Korean Peninsula's nuclear issue - to increase mutual understanding and trust. However, it must do so without making the kind of outlandish concessions that the Obama administration made as a matter of course to secure the release of USA citizens held by Iran. Three other US citizens are believed to still be in North Korean custody.

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.

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