Otto Warmbier, American student detained in DPRK, then released, dies

World Today

FILE – In this Feb. 29, 2016, file photo, American student Otto Warmbier speaks as he is presented to reporters in Pyongyang, North Korea. More than 15 months after he gave a staged confession in North Korea, he is with his Ohio family again. But whether he is even aware of that is uncertain. (AP Photo/Kim Kwang Hyon, File)

Otto Warmbier, the American college student who was released by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in a coma has died in Ohio, according to a statement released by the hospital. Otto Warmbier was 22.

The family paid tribute to Warmbier in a statement released by the family.

“It would be easy at a moment like this to focus on all that we lost — future time that won’t be spent with a warm, engaging, brilliant young man whose curiosity and enthusiasm for life knew no bounds,” the family’s said, adding “but we choose to focus on the time we were given to be with this remarkable person. You can tell from the outpouring of emotion from the communities that he touched — Wyoming, Ohio, and the University of Virginia to name just two — that the love for Otto went well beyond his immediate family.”

Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years in prison with hard labor in the DPRK, convicted of subversion after he tearfully confessed he had tried to steal a propaganda banner.

He was released by the DPRK and medically evacuated last week on “humanitarian grounds”, the isolated state said, 17 months after he was arrested while visiting the DPRK as a tourist.

He had been described by doctors caring for him last week as having extensive brain damage that left him in a state of “unresponsive wakefulness”.

U.S. President Donald Trump offered his condolences to the family of Warmbier.

Trump said in a written statement that there “is nothing more tragic for a parent than to lose a child in the prime of life.” And he’s condemning the “brutality of the North Korean regime as we mourn its latest victim.”

China’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday that Warmbier’s death was an “unfortunate incident”, adding that they hope both sides would “handle the matter appropriately”.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Tuesday that he would not comment on whether the incident would affect issues regarding Pyongyang’s nuclear program, but instead encouraged “all sides” to return to talks as soon possible.

“We have also noted the relevant report. I think this is an unfortunate incident. We hope that the U.S. and the DPRK will be able to handle the matter appropriately,” Geng said.

Story by The Associated Press and Reuters.