US student freed by North Koreans is back home

Feb. 28 2013 North Korean leader Kim Jong Un left and former NBA star Dennis Rodman watch North Korea and the U.S. play an exhibition basketball game in Pyongyang North Korea

Feb. 28 2013 North Korean leader Kim Jong Un left and former NBA star Dennis Rodman watch North Korea and the U.S. play an exhibition basketball game in Pyongyang North Korea

Hours after Rodman arrived in the capital, North Korea released 22-year-old U.S. student Otto Warmbier from a 15-year sentence of hard labour.

Warmbier was detained in January 2016 and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in March of last year for trying to steal an item with a propaganda slogan, according to North Korean media. Tillerson did not discuss Warmbier's medical condition. Here is the timeline.

In a statement, he said: "My first priority will be continuing to support Otto, his parents and family, whose strength and love of family inspire me every time I speak with them". A June 6 meeting led a week later to Warmbier's sudden release Tuesday after 17 months of captivity. He was medically evacuated to an American military facility in Sapporo, Japan, before arriving home in Cincinnati.

Warmbier was supposed to graduate from the University of Virginia in May. He is looking to increase economic and diplomatic pressure on North Korea, with help from China, but has said he's open to meeting Kim. "Mr. Warmbier is en route to the United States, where he will be reunited with his family". When the Swedes finally got the okay to visit, the North Koreans immediately asked for a meeting with Joe Yun, the United States envoy in NY, when he was told about Otto Warmbier's condition.

The North Korean side claimed they were detaining him because he had been teaching unauthorized material and engaging in inappropriate activities, Leigh told RFA.

After the Swedish diplomats met with the detained Americans, the North Koreans urgently asked to have a meeting with the U.S.in NY.

His parents told the Washington Post newspaper their son is in a coma and has been for over a year. The North Koreans agreed and he was flown out on Tuesday.

"I don't think this administration is ideologically opposed to talking with North Korea", said Victor Cha, a Korea expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies who served as senior director for Asia on the National Security Council in the George W. Bush administration.

It was not immediately clear if Rodman's visit to North Korea was purely coincidental with Warmbier's release. US officials did not confirm those details.

The president of the University of Virginia said the school is "deeply concerned and saddened" to learn that their student is in a coma.

The official, who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because no formal statement had been released, said he could not provide further details.

During his detention, Leigh said he was provided with one meal a day, and slept on a blanket on the floor. Three more Americans are still detained.

In rare high-level contacts, Yun met senior North Korean officials in Oslo in May, where it was agreed Swedish officials in Pyongyang, who handle USA consular affairs there, would be allowed to see all four American detainees, a State Department official said. A 2009 visit by former President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, secured the freedom of American journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling.

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