Father of freed student says son was 'brutalized' by captors
- Author: Leroy Wright Jun 21, 2017,
Jun 21, 2017, 2:45
Tensions have heightened on the Korean peninsula over Pyongyang's nuclear and missile tests and its vow to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the U.S. mainland, presenting U.S. President Donald Trump with perhaps his most pressing security worry.
The family said they were told by North Korean officials, through contacts with American envoys, that Warmbier fell ill from botulism sometime after his March 2016 trial and lapsed into a coma after taking a sleeping pill, the Washington Post reported. They all are naturalized Americans of Korean ethnicity.
Warmbier was released "at the direction of the president", Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement Tuesday, adding the department was continuing discussions with the North regarding three other American detainees. But the fact that he had been kept, comatose, in North Korea for more than a year could worsen the already tense relationship between Pyongyang and Washington.
Rodman declined to say whether he had spoken about the trip with Trump, who four years ago endorsed Rodman's visiting North Korea.
"On whether these two incidents are related, one should directly ask the country concerned", he said during a regular press briefing. The announcement came shortly after former National Basketball Association player Dennis Rodman arrived in Pyongyang for a return visit to North Korea.
Former NBA star Dennis Rodman has been one of the United States' most unlikely links to North Korea, traveling repeatedly to the authoritarian state and gaining rare access to its leadership.
It is the first time that the USA administration has confirmed the dispatch of a ranking official to North Korea since President Donald Trump took office in January.
Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said, "It's clear that Pyongyang has committed a grave injustice against Otto and his family, and the news that he may be returning with a serious medical problem raises concerns about what happened to him in North Korean custody". "Mr. Warmbier is en route to the United States, where he will be reunited with his family", he said.
When asked if he would bring up the cases of Warmbier and three other Americans detained in North Korea, Rodman told reporters, "That's not my goal right now". "How did he fall into a coma?"
"We strongly suggest that Americans do not go to North Korea", Nauert said.
University of Virginia president Teresa Sullivan said the whole UVA community was relieved to learn of Warmbier's release but was "deeply concerned and saddened to learn from his family that he is in a coma".
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, called Warmbier's arrest and trial "unnecessary and appalling", while lawmakers from Virginia also denounced North Korea's actions.
A hospital spokeswoman said Warmbier's family was expected to hold a news conference Thursday morning at Wyoming High School.
That sense of relief is shared throughout this nation, which also wonders how long North Korea will be permitted to continue its nuclear designs and to foment unsafe global threats. Shortly after Warmbier's sentencing, Kim Dong-chul, was arrested on accusations of espionage, and has been held ever since.
North Korea's first private university, PUST was founded and remains operated by actors outside the country, mostly Evangelical Christian organizations.
However, before his arrival in Pyongyang, Rodman told reporters that pleading to free detained Americans is not the goal of his visit right now.