Basketball diplomacy in North Korea as USA student is released


Four U.S. citizens are now being held by North Korea, including Otto Warmbier, a student at the University of Virginia given 15 years in prison with hard labor for the attempted theft of a propaganda poster in January 2016.

Tillerson said the State Department secured Warmbier's release at the direction of President Trump.

Warmbier was flown out of North Korea on the same day that Dennis Rodman, the controversial former basketball star, arrived for his fifth visit to Pyongyang.

Two women waiting outside the airport fence held signs: "WELCOME HOME OTTO" and "PRAYERS FOR OTTO", and said they were there to support his family. "North Korea is persecuting their savior, a person who came to help them". "Maybe Dennis is a lot better than what we have", he said. Otto grew up here and we know him as an intelligent, personable, and wonderful young man.

At the time of his arrest, Warmbier had been on an organized New Year's tour in North Korea, a five-day stopover on his way to Hong Kong for a study-abroad trip.

At a news conference before his trial, a sobbing Warmbier said he had made "the worst mistake of my life" and pleaded to be released. On the same trip, he suggested an American missionary was at fault for his own imprisonment in North Korea, remarks for which he later apologized.

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The White House says a USA envoy met with North Korean foreign ministry representatives in Norway last month as part of efforts to win freedom for Americans held by Pyongyang.

The North has occasionally jailed USA citizens on charges ranging from hostile acts to illegal entry, and released them only after visits by high-profile figures including former president Bill Clinton.

There was some speculation that he might plead the case for the American detainees, but en route to North Korea he told reporters "my goal is to actually see if I can keep bringing sports to North Korea".

Wyoming community members decked out the town in blue and white ribbons ready to welcome home Otto Warmbier, who has been held prisoner in North Korea for 18 months.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson confirmed the release and said Washington remained in talks with the isolated regime "regarding three other USA citizens reported detained". According to Warmbier's parents, their son was medically evacuated from North Korea in a coma, which he has reportedly been in for over a year after falling ill to botulism and then being given a sleeping pill.

A Department of State spokeswoman said that out of respect for the privacy of Warmbier's family, "we have no further comment".

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After a short trial on 16 March, Mr Warmbier was given a 15-year prison sentence for crimes against the state.

In Seoul, South Korea, U.S. Undersecretary of State Thomas Shannon said "we pray for him and we pray for his family". He was sentenced to 15 years in prison with hard labor for subversion after he tearfully confessed that he had tried to steal a propaganda banner. "No one", Fred Warmbier said.

Warmbier's parents said in a statement to The Associated Press that they were told their son has been in a coma since March 2016, and they had learned of this only one week ago.

That moment to use this chip might have arrived, in Pyongyang's estimation, with the escalation of tensions between the USA and North Korea over the latter's pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Who else is detained in North Korea?

North Korea's first private university, PUST was founded and remains operated by actors outside the country, mostly Evangelical Christian organizations.

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However, before his arrival in Pyongyang, Rodman told reporters that pleading to free detained Americans is not the objective of his visit right now.