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American student released by North Korea - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

14 Juin 2017

Before Rodman arrived in Pyongyang, North Korea arranged with US authorities to free one of the four Americans it was holding: Otto Warmbier, 22, a University of Virginia student who was held for 17 months for trying to steal a propaganda poster as a souvenir.

The State Department is continuing to discuss the situation of three other detained Americans with North Korea, Tillerson said. According to Warmbier's parents, their son was medically evacuated from North Korea in a coma, which he has reportedly been in for over a year after falling ill to botulism and then being given a sleeping pill.

Tillerson, at a U.S. Senate hearing on Tuesday, declined to comment on Warmbier's condition.

Asked by Business Insider whether the USA may have coordinated with Rodman over the visit and release of Warmbier, Frank Aum, a former senior adviser on North Korea for the Department of Defense, said the State Department would "certainly have been notified of Rodman's visit". Rodman had told reporters before arriving in Pyongyang that the issue of Americans detained by North Korea is "not my objective right now".

She tells reporters, "we are grateful and thankful" for Warmbier's release, but says it is "too soon" to talk about dialogue between the USA and North Korea.

As a result, Otto Warmbier had no access to Western medicine to treat his serious condition and instead wasted away for 17 months in a decrepit North Korean hospital.

"For all of Kim Jong Un's bravado and his flaunting of the threat of nuclear-armed missiles, he really, really does not want an American citizen to perish under his custody", said Danny Russel, a State Department official on sabbatical who served as senior Asia director at the National Security Council in the Obama administration.

Warmbier was en route to Beijing to do a study-abroad program, but instead was charged with "hostile acts against the state", in a trial in March, 2016. USA officials continue to question the North Korean version of events surrounding Warmbier's treatment in the country and his release.

North Korean officials had accused Warmbier of subversion.

"Our son is coming home", Fred Warmbier told The Washington Post after Otto had been evacuated from North Korea.

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"The Secretary of State has confirmed to me that Otto has been released by North Korea, and is being returned to his family".

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced that the State Department had secured Warmbier's release at the direction of the president.

Former NBA star Dennis Rodman happened to arrive in North Korea for his fifth trip to the rogue state the same day Warmbier left. "We learned of this only one week ago", Warmbier's parents said in a statement to the press.

Warmbier was taken to a Japanese hospital after being released and will apparently be flown to the United States on a medical plane with sufficient equipment to treat him in-flight. "We are so grateful that he will finally be with people who love him".

That was used as evidence in his hour-long trial, during which North Korea accused him of committing "hostile acts" against the regime at the urging of a purported member of a church in his home state of OH, a secretive university organization and the Central Intelligence Agency.

The other United States citizens now being held by North Korea include Kim Hak-Song and Tony Kim, both professors at the Pyongyang University of Science and technology.

Tillerson consulted with Trump, and arrangements were made for Yun and a medical team to travel to Pyongyang, the official said. Rodman has met Kim on previous trips to North Korea, serenading him from the basketball court and even holding his baby daughter.

Rodman has now been to North Korea five times, but he has come under heavy criticism for appearing to appease a man who leads a regime that is vowing a nuclear strike on the United States. A 2009 visit by former President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, secured the freedom of American journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling.

But on his final night in Pyongyang - New Year's Eve - Warmbier apparently went to a staff-only floor of his hotel and attempted to take down a large propaganda sign lauding the regime.