US State Secretary: North Korea Frees American Citizen


CINCINNATI (AP) - An American college student who was released from a North Korean prison is finally home but in a coma and undergoing treatment at an OH hospital where he was taken shortly after arriving on US soil. Two ambulances met the plane on the runway to transfer Otto to the hospital.

They were quoted by the Washington Post as saying they had been told Otto had contracted botulism, a rare illness that causes paralysis, soon after his trial in March 2016. "How did he fall into a coma?" And how does the Trump administration respond?

Before arriving this time, Rodman told reporters that Trump would be happy with the trip, since he was "trying to accomplish something that we both need", sparking speculation that he may be operating as an unofficial envoy.

The announcement comes as former National Basketball Association superstar Dennis Rodman makes a return visit to the hermit kingdom where he has regularly enjoyed access to the country's top leadership, including Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un.

Tillerson says the State Department continues discussing three other detained Americans with North Korea.

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.

If nothing else, the confluence of these two events highlights the enduring strangeness of North Korea as an actor on the worldwide stage.

(AP Photo/John Minchillo). Alison Lebrun helps tie blue-and-white awareness ribbons along Springfield Pike near the family home of Otto Warmbier, a 22-year-old University of Virginia undergraduate student who was imprisoned in North Korea in March 2016.

He had not been seen in public since.

She tells reporters, "we are grateful and thankful" for Warmbier's release, but says it is "too soon" to talk about dialogue between the USA and North Korea.

Warmbier had been serving a 15-year prison term.

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- Tony Kim, who also goes by his Korean name Kim Sang-duk, was detained April 22 at the Pyongyang airport. It is unclear what the status of the other three American citizens held in North Korea is, but this process jump-started the expedited release of Warmbier. "I think we're very excited yet very prayerful about what is happening because we've heard he is in a coma".

Tillerson told U.S. senators at the start of a budget hearing that the State Department had no comment on Mr Warmbier's condition, "out of respect for him and his family". That would be grounds in North Korea for a subversion charge.

In theory, North Koreans can still cruise the country in Pyeonghwa sedans, as United Nations sanctions only now ban the sale of aviation, jet and rocket fuel to Pyongyang. "American and medical officials would get out".

Tillerson consulted with Trump and arrangements were made for Yun and a medical team to travel to Pyongyang, the official said.

Health care professionals have also weighed in on Warmbier's case, though they decline to offer specific explanations for what he may be suffering from and why.

In a statement on Tuesday, Mr and Mrs Warmbier said: "Sadly, he is in a coma and we have been told he has been in that condition since March 2016".

According to USA media, Fred and Cindy Warmbier, Otto's parents, were told by North Korea officials that their son had suffered from botulism following his trial and fell into a coma after taking a sleeping pill.

A North Korean foreign ministry official, requesting anonymity because no formal North Korean statement had been released, said only that Warmbier was released and left the country Tuesday. Warmbier's parents said they learned of their son's condition "only one week ago". "He grew up here, people know him well, we wish him the very best and we wish him a full recovery", McCauley said.

It's a safe bet that North Korea's marching military did not learn its moves overseas: United Nations sanctions ban foreign security forces from training the country's army, police or paramilitary units.

The two American teachers were arrested last month for allegedly carrying out hostile activities against Pyongyang. Warmbier landed in Cincinnati Tuesday night.

While North Korea's move to free Warmbier could potentially provide an opening for talks on security issues, the prospects still appear bleak.