US State Secretary: North Korea Frees American Citizen

Lawrence Kim
June 27, 2017

The US Department of State announced that Otto Warmbier, a 22-year-old University of Virginia student, was released after 17 months of detention.

Warmbier was serving a 15-year prison term with hard labor in North Korea.

Tillerson said the Department of State was continuing "to have discussions" with North Korea about the release of other three American citizens imprisoned there. As North Korea maintains a relentless quest to develop a missile capable of reaching the United States mainland and has conducted a number of nuclear tests this year, Warmbier's release is as confounding as it is welcomed. They say North Koreans told USA authorities that their son contracted botulism and never awoke after he was given a sleeping pill.

Warmbier was a University of Virginia student when he chose to go to North Korea with a tour group. 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. Yun discussed the situation with Secretary of State Tillerson and President Trump, who sent him to North Korea to bring Warmbier home. Shortly before sentencing, was held a press-conference at which Warmbir, not hiding tears, asked forgiveness of the North Korean people, calling the attempt to steal the poster "the most bad mistake in life".

The US condemned the sentence at the time, accusing North Korea of attempting to use Warmbier as a political pawn amid heightened tensions between Washington and Pyongyang. This reportedly occurred a year ago - but his family was just alerted of his condition last week, according to a statement released by the Warmbier family.

Yun arrived on Monday, visited Warmbier with two doctors and demanded his release, the official said.

Korean-American professor Kim Sang-duk (or Tony Kim) who was detained in April 2017.

"Mr. Warmbier is en route to the United States, where he will be reunited with his family".

But State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the visit "had nothing to do with the release".

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

On Tuesday, South Korean military officials told reporters that a North Korean drone found last week had taken photographs of a recently installed, US -made anti-missile system.

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

Some analysts speculated that Rodman may even be carrying a message from President Donald Trump, who previously had praised Rodman's efforts to engage North Korea.

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) - Dennis Rodman's visit to North Korea has been uncharacteristically low-key so far.

He noted that the North Koreans had refused to let Swedish officials - America's diplomatic intermediaries in that country - visit or contact Otto for more than a year. Thousands of US troops are based in South Korea, and the Demilitarized Zone between the North and South is one of the most heavily fortified borders in the world.

Tillerson told USA senators at the start of a budget hearing that the State Department had no comment on Warmbier's condition "out of respect for him and his family".

Kim described Rodman as "a friend in a good reason" when they watched a basketball match together in Pyongyang back in 2013.

Warmbier also said he had been encouraged by the university's "Z Society", which he said he was trying to join. North Korea accuses Washington and South Korea of sending spies to overthrow its government.

But U.S. officials said Rodman's visit was purely coincidental.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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