Wednesday, 22 November, 2017

US college student released by North Korea arrives in Ohio

Otto Warmbier American student released by North Korea is in a coma KCTV via CNN
Lillian Steele | 23 June, 2017, 05:12

The State Department denied any connection between Warmbier's release and Rodman's visit, which the Trump administration said it did not authorize.

The United States had accused the North of using Warmbier as a political pawn, condemning the sentence as far out of proportion to his alleged crime.

This morning came word suddenly that the United States had secured his release, but under apparently desperate circumstances. The two bonded over their OH roots, and later lived together their junior year, when Warmbier was detained, Saulnier said.

He added that because America has no trade with North Korea, the most effective way to impose pressure is through "secondary sanctions" that threaten companies from third countries with losing access to the U.S. market if they deal with Pyongyang.

Our chief foreign affairs correspondent, Margaret Warner, reports.

"While the entire University of Virginia community is relieved to learn of Otto's release from North Korea, we are deeply concerned and saddened to learn from his family that he is in a coma", university president Teresa Sullivan said in a statement. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert confirmed a message from US Senator Rob Portman announcing the release, 18 months after the young man was detained.

Denise Koesterman ties 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, in the Wyoming suburb of Cincinnati on Tuesday, June 13, 2017.

AP reporters Josh Lederman and Ken Thomas in Washington, Eric Talmadge in Pyongyang, North Korea, Daniel Sewell in Cincinnati and video journalist Sara Gillesby in NY contributed to this report.

She spoke via Skype from Tokyo.

The plane carrying Otto Warmbier has landed in Cincinnati, Ohio, local media reported later the same day. But the New York Times reported that a senior USA official said Washington obtained reports in recent weeks, indiciating Warmbier had been beaten while in North Korean custody. He was in a coma and had to be medically evacuated. 'Sadly, he is in a coma and we have been told he has been in that condition since March of 2016, ' the parents said in a statement.

A small group of family friends was nearby to celebrate Warmbier's arrival, cheering and holding signs that read "Pray for Otto" and 'Welcome home Otto'. In a televised trial, he was sentenced in March 2016 to 15 years in prison with hard labor as he publicly confessed to trying to steal a propaganda banner.

Rodman, who is known as much for his piercings, ever-changing hair colors and off-court antics as his basketball skills, has developed an unlikely relationship with the North Korean leader since making his first trip there in 2013. Instead, he was apprehended on January 2, 2016 at the Pyongyang International Airport on charges of committing a "hostile act" against the state, as he was preparing to leave the country.

But Mr Tillerson's sanctions threat will up the stakes with China, North Korea's biggest partner, and Russian Federation, the rogue regime's other main supplier. He was arrested on January 2 at Pyongyang Sunan International Airport on the last day of a five-day tour.

Pyongyang's attitude changed in May. Speaking to reporters in Beijing before his arrival in Pyongyang on Tuesday, he said that the issue of several Americans detained by North Korea is "not my goal right now".

Finally, President Trump has shown that, for better or worse, he purports to care about American lives more than the lives of anyone else. At the same time, we are saddened to learn that he is in a coma and we hope that he will soon be returned to full health'. Pyongyang has ramped up its nuclear and missile programs.

North Korea regularly accuses Washington and Seoul of sending spies to overthrow its government to enable the US-backed South Korean government to take control of the Korean Peninsula.

ANNA FIFIELD: I think the North Koreans have probably realized that they did need to get rid of Otto Warmbier at some stage, that he wasn't recovering, and they needed to hand him back. Former NBA basketball star Dennis Rodman, second right, towers over North Korean children during his visit to Mangyongdae, the birth place of late North Korean leader Kim Il Sung on Wednesday, June 14, 2017, in Pyongyang, Nor. Fifield says she was told Rodman's visit had nothing to with the freeing of Warmbier.

Less is known about these three prisoners than Warmbier, whose friends and family have helped shed some light on his odd and unfortunate case.

For the PBS NewsHour, I'm Margaret Warner.

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