Pyongyang has released an American college student, sentenced to 15 years for alleged crimes against the state.
The announcement comes as former professional basketball player Dennis Rodman is paying a return visit to North Korea.
CGTN’s Jessica Stone reports.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that 22-year old Otto Warmbier is on his way back to the state of Ohio.
Otto Warmbier’s parents said their son is in a coma and has been for more than a year – but they only learned about his condition a week ago. He’s being medically evacuated back to his Cincinnati home.
In a statement, Warmbier’s parents added:
“We want the world to know how we and our son have been brutalized and terrorized by the pariah regime in North Korea. We are so grateful that he will finally be with people who love him.”
Warmbier was arrested last January for attempting to steal a political banner from his Pyongyang hotel. The DPRK Supreme Court sentenced him to 15 years of hard labor last March after he tearfully confessed in a televised proceeding.
The administration sent its special envoy last month to meet with a DPRK representative in Norway. Then Pyongyang asked for another meeting, which happened last week in New York.
It was only then that Washington learned Warmbier is in a coma. Washington’s special envoy met with Warmbier’s doctors on Monday and demanded his release on humanitarian grounds.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says President Donald Trump asked him to secure Warmbier’s release. Three more Americans are still detained.
“We continue our discussions with the North Korean regime regarding the release of the three other American citizens that have been detained,” Tillerson said. “We have no comment on Mr. Warmbier’s condition out of respect to him and the family.”
Word of the release came just as retired US basketball pro – Dennis Rodman touched down in Pyongyang, his sixth visit to the nation in the last four years.
American Kenneth Bae credits Rodman’s unconventional relationship with DPRK leader Kim Jong Un for helping pave the way for his November 2014 release from his own 15-year prison sentence there.
In May of 2013, Rodman had tweeted that he wanted Kim to quote: “cut Kenneth Bae loose.”
But Rodman raised no such expectations this time—telling a CNN reporter that his trip is mainly focused on sports and not trying to win release of the remaining three Americans.
“Well that’s not my purpose right now. Not my purpose right now. My purpose is to go over there and try to see if I can keep bringing sports to North Korea. That’s the main thing so I hope that can open doors for us,” said Rodman
Asked if he had spoken to President Trump about his trip — Rodman simply said “I’m pretty sure he’s happy I’m here, trying to accomplish something we both need.”
On Monday, the U.S. Secretary of Defense called the DPRK the most urgent threat to U.S. security.