United States confirms high-level visit to N. Korea behind student's release
- Author: Leroy Wright Jun 19, 2017,
Jun 19, 2017, 14:43
Rodman, who has developed a personal friendship with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, arrived in Pyongyang the same day Otto Warmbier's release was secured after more than a year in detention for alleged anti-state activities. ". I just want to take their pain".
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.
Since then, the United States continued to urge that North Korea allow Sweden further consular access to Warmbier, as well as three other American citizens known to be held by North Korea.
Mr. Rodman is a Hall of Fame professional basketball player who formed a personal relationship with the diminutive North Korean dictator Kim several years ago, traveling to North Korea to give basketball demonstrations.
A small group of family friends was nearby to celebrate Warmbier's arrival, cheering and holding signs that read "Pray for Otto" and "Welcome home Otto". North Korea has released Otto Warmbier, an American serving a 15-year prison term with hard labor for alleged anti-state acts, Tillerson said in an announcement that came as former National Basketball Association player Dennis Rodman was paying a return visit to Pyongyang. He was sentenced to 15 years hard labor following a brief one hour trial and, despite pleas from American State Department officials that his sentence was "unduly harsh".
American student Otto Warmbier, seen here arriving for his trial in Pyongyang in March 2016.
Warmbier would have graduated in May.
He was given a sleeping pill after becoming ill after his trial previous year and did not wake up, North Korea said. "We have been told that he has been in that condition since March of 2016".
There was no immediate confirmation from US officials of North Korea's version of events - notably whether Warmbier was stricken with botulism, a potentially fatal illness that is caused by a toxin but is not usually associated with loss of consciousness. "This is wrong", David Lee, one of the men who said he studied with Kim, told CNN.
An airplane carrying Otto Warmbier, who's from OH, arrived in Cincinnati shortly before 10:20 p.m.
Warmbier, a student at the University of Virginia, was forced to confess to his "crimes" and later became critically ill during his incarceration.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the State Department secured Warmbier's release at the direction of President Donald Trump.
The 22-year-old student from the University of Virginia has been in a state of coma for more than a year after contracting botulism soon after he was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in a trial by the DPRK supreme court on March 16, 2016, according to US local media.
He had not been seen in public since, and Swedish diplomats, representing USA interests, had been denied consular access to him.
"Otto's detainment and sentence was unnecessary and appalling, and North Korea should be universally condemned for its abhorrent behavior", said Republican Sen.
"In no uncertain terms North Korea must explain the causes of his coma", he said.
Sen. Rob Portman confirmed the release but did not comment on Warmbier's health.
In November 2014, USA spy chief James Clapper went to Pyongyang to bring home Matthew Miller, who had ripped up his visa when entering the country and was serving a six-year sentence on an espionage charge, and Korean-American missionary Kenneth Bae, who had been sentenced to 15 years for alleged anti-government activities.
South Korea's Foreign Ministry says it believes a US government official's recent visit to North Korea was purely a humanitarian act to secure the release of an American student.