North Korean prisoner Otto Warmbier returns to the USA

The State Department says former National Basketball Association star Dennis Rodman, who is visiting North Korea, had nothing to do with the release of a detained American college student.

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. On January 2nd, 2016, he was arrested while trying to leave the country with his tour group and accused of stealing a propaganda poster. Swedish diplomats, who represent US interests in Pyongyang, were able to check in on Warmbier recently and reported that the young American was in a coma after being stricken with what appeared to be a case of botulism.

The US state department said it had secured his release "at the direction" of President Trump but it then emerged that Mr Warmbier has been in coma for more than a year after contracting botulism - a fate his family learnt about a week ago.

An administration official told ABC News that Tillerson called President Donald Trump at 8:35 a.m. ET to inform him that Warmbier was on a plane en route to the United States.

Donald Trump said early in his campaign for the presidency that he takes North Korea's hereditary ruler, 33-year-old Kim Jong-un, quite seriously because of his nuclear weapons, and is willing to talk with him about the crisis in U.S.

The Warmbier family said they were informed that North Korean officials had told American envoys that their son became ill with botulism soon after his show trial in March past year.

Wyoming community members decked out the town in blue and white ribbons ready to welcome home Otto Warmbier, who has been held prisoner in North Korea for 18 months. "We're just here to support Cindy and Fred and the family", Charlotte Simons said.

"Since March 2, no one has seen or heard from Otto".

The news came as flamboyant retired NBA basketball star Dennis Rodman - a former contestant on Trump's "Celebrity Apprentice" reality show - flew to Pyongyang to resume his quixotic quest to broker detente between his United States homeland and Kim Jong-Un's authoritarian regime. It said its special envoy on North Korean policy met with North Korean foreign ministry representatives in Norway last month. Rodman had told reporters before arriving in Pyongyang that the issue of Americans detained by North Korea is "not my goal right now".

Department of State spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters Rodman had nothing to do with Warmbier's release. Richardson has played a role in past negotiations with North Korea.

Rodman's North Korea visits over the years have fueled speculation he could facilitate a diplomatic breakthrough between Pyongyang and Washington.

At a press conference before his trial, a sobbing Warmbier said he had made "the worst mistake of my life" and pleaded to be released.

The White House says a US envoy met with North Korean foreign ministry representatives in Norway last month as part of efforts to win freedom for Americans held by Pyongyang. 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. The North Koreans "were informed that the airplane would land, American and medical officials would get out".

Warmbier said he accepted the offer because his family was "suffering from very severe financial difficulties".

Authorities are believed to have arrested Kim Hak Song, who had been in North Korea for several weeks working at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST), on May 6 this year as he was about to leave the country.

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

Previous detainees have been released after visits from high-profile Americans, including former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.

He was found guilty and sentenced to 15 years hard labor.

  • Leroy Wright