Amid diplomatic contact, North Korea frees American student

Otto Warmbier, a U.S. student who was sentenced to years of hard labor in North Korea, has been released but is reportedly in a coma.

Past year I wrote about the sad situation college student Otto Warmbier found himself in after trying to take a political banner hanging in his hotel in North Korea. North Korea told a USA official that Warmbier contracted botulism and slipped into the coma after taking a sleeping pill, a senior State Department official told CNN.

Warmbier's parents said in a statement to The Associated Press that they were told their son has been in a coma since March 2016, and they had learned of this only one week ago.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced Warmbier's release Tuesday and said he'd be reunited with his family.

North Korea has released Cincinnati native Otto Warmbier, a 22-year-old college student who had been detained and imprisoned in that reclusive dictatorship for more than a year.

The former professional basketball player appeared on Trump's Celebrity Apprentice show for two seasons and has serenaded the North Korean leader from the basketball court on previous visits to the country.

The release came after Joseph Yun, the State Department's special envoy on North Korea, traveled to Pyongyang on a rare high-level U.S. visit and demanded the student's freedom on humanitarian grounds, culminating a flurry of secret diplomatic contacts, a USA official said.

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.

The Washington Post newspaper reported that Warmbier was in a coma when he left North Korea.

Since taking office in January, US President Donald Trump has faced a growing national security challenge from North Korea, which has conducted a series of ballistic missile tests in defiance of US and global sanctions.

A senior State Department official told CNN that the U.S. has not yet accepted the North Korean version of events in terms of the timing and cause of how Warmbier went into a coma.

But the student body is hoping Warmbier will come back to UVA and finish school.

Warmbier was flown out of North Korea on the same day that Dennis Rodman, the controversial basketball star, arrived for his fifth visit in Pyongyang.

"All we know so far is what they have told us", a State Department official said.

The world certainly has its hands full trying to contain the North Korean menace.

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.

Secretary Tillerson informed President Donald Trump by phone, with an anonymous senior administration official telling The Washington Post the president's last instruction was: "Take care of Otto".

We also learn that it is most unlikely that Dennis Rodman was a part of the discussions about Mr. Warmbier or the arrangements for his return. "We are so grateful that he will finally be with people who love him." they added. "No one", Fred Warmbier said.

THOMPSON: Warmbier is on his way back to the US and reportedly will land tonight.

Americans are regarded as enemies in North Korea because the two countries never signed a peace treaty at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.

The university is hopeful Warmbier will return too.

  • Leroy Wright