Korea trip off to uncharacteristic low-key start

Hours after Rodman arrived in the capital, North Korea released 22-year-old U.S. student Otto Warmbier from a 15-year sentence of hard labour.

Rodman said the issue of several Americans detained by North Korea is "not my goal right now", in remarks made in Beijing before the release of Warmbier was publicly disclosed.

Mr Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years of hard labour for attempting to steal a propaganda sign from a hotel.

Warmbier, a 22-year-old University of Virginia undergraduate, was convicted and sentenced in a one-hour trial in North Korea's Supreme Court in March 2016.

She said USA officials had a hard time getting information about Warmbier from North Korea.

The State Department denied any connection between Warmbier's release and Rodman's visit, which President Donald Trump's administration said it did not authorise.

Three other Americans remain imprisoned in North Korea.

"We pray for him and pray for his family", Shannon said, without providing other information.

State Department officials said Warmbier's release followed secret talks between USA and North Korean diplomats.

"At the direction of the President, the Department of State has secured the release of Otto Warmbier from North Korea", Tillerson said in a statement.

Pictures showed a man in a blue t-shirt, believed to be Warmbier, being carried from the plane.

"Well, I'm pretty sure he's pretty much happy with the fact that I'm over here trying to accomplish something that we both need", Rodman said in Beijing when asked if Trump was aware of the trip.

American student Otto Warmbier, seen here arriving for his trial in Pyongyang in March 2016.

US student Otto Warmbier is escorted at the supreme court in Pyongyang, North Korea, in 2016. "Maybe Dennis is a lot better than what we have", he said.

On the release of Warmbir said Tuesday, June 13, U.S. Secretary Rex Tillerson.

North Korea has woefully inadequate medical care, and it is not clear how North Korean doctors had been caring for Warmbier for more than a year in an unconscious state. This is the first time the Swedish diplomats were allowed to visit with Warmbier. On the same trip, he suggested an American missionary was at fault for his own imprisonment in North Korea, remarks for which he later apologized.

Warmbier, a student at the University of Virginia, was forced to confess to his "crimes" and later became critically ill during his incarceration.

Since taking office in January, U.S. President Donald Trump has faced growing tensions with North Korea, which has conducted a series of ballistic missile tests in defiance of U.S. and global sanctions.

More than half of US states have legalized medical marijuana and eight have voted to legalize it for recreational purposes, but it remains illegal under federal law.

On May 21, the day Warmbier would have graduated, UVA student leaders distributed "Free Otto" stickers and organized a tribute in his honor. He was convicted in March 2016 and sentenced to 10 years hard labor, about a week after Warmbier's conviction - both sentences were handed down shortly after the USA had levied steeper sanctions against North Korea in response to missile testing.

Rodman, who endorsed presidential candidate Donald Trump during the 2016 election campaign and appeared twice as a contestant on Trump's "Celebrity Apprentice" TV show, said his latest visit was merely created to visit old friends and to "have a good time". A former Virginia resident and naturalized American citizen, Kim Dong-chul, was arrested shortly after Warmbier on accusations of espionage, and was sentenced to 10 years. The announcement came shortly after former National Basketball Association player Dennis Rodman arrived in Pyongyang for a return visit to North Korea.

Meanwhile, the ministry said that it has approved three more requests by local civic groups to contact North Koreans, raising the total to 21. One of Rodman's earlier visits to North Korea was sponsored by an Irish gambling company.

  • Leroy Wright