North Korea frees American student; parents say he's in coma

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced that North Korea released Otto Warmbier, 22, a University of Virginia student, who was serving a 15-year sentence for alleged anti-state acts.

Asked whether the U.S. wanted to see an Iran-style global embargo to deny exports of petroleum and other products to North Korea, Mr Tillerson said that this would only work if Russian Federation and China co-operated.

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.

Warmbier would have graduated in May.

Rodman developed an unlikely relationship with the North Korean leader since making his first trip there in 2013. Such meetings are unusual because the two governments do not have diplomatic relations.

"What an incredible day for one of our citizens who was held in North Korea for more than a year", Nauert said. He has been roundly criticized for visiting during a time of high tensions between the US and North Korea over its weapons programs. Washington and Pyongyang are negotiating for their release. Three Americans remain in custody. He was sentenced to 15 years hard labor, and he had not been seen or heard from since he appeared in a dramatic confession apologizing for "the biggest mistake" of his life.

U.S. Undersecretary of State Thomas Shannon talks to journalists after meeting with Japan's National Security Council Chief Shotaro Yachi at the prime minister's office Tuesday, June 13, 2017, in Tokyo.

The uncertainty over Warmbier's condition and treatment in detention speaks to the opacity of North Korea's justice system.

"Our son is coming home", Fred Warmbier said Tuesday morning after Otto Warmbier was evacuated. Thousands of USA troops are based in South Korea, and the Demilitarized Zone between the North and South is one of the most heavily fortified borders in the world.

U.S. officials refused to comment on Warmbier's condition, but former ambassador and New Mexico governor Bill Richardson said he had spoken with the family.

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. "We are so grateful that he will finally be with people who love him".

Tillerson says the State Department secured Warmbier's release at President Donald Trump's direction. The official referred to them as "hostages". "Since we also have our citizens detained in the North. we are putting pressure on the North to free them through various channels", he said, vowing "utmost efforts".

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Following the May meeting in Oslo, North Korea urgently requested another meeting, which took place last week between the US envoy on North Korea, Joseph Yun, and the North's ambassador at the NY.

Richardson said his center in Sante Fe, N.M. received a call Tuesday from the Warmbiers with an update on their son's condition.

Warmbier's release was facilitated by State Department Special Representative for North Korea Policy Joseph Yun.

Yun arrived in Pyongyang early Monday with two USA physicians.

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.

It was not immediately clear if Rodman's visit to North Korea was purely coincidental with Warmbier's release.

This combination of file photos shows former NBA basketball star Dennis Rodman in Pyongyang, North Korea on December 20, 2013, left, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang on April 15, 2017.

Asked if he had spoken to Trump about his trip, he said, "Well, I'm pretty sure he's pretty much happy with the fact that I'm over here trying to accomplish something that we both need".

He is reportedly scheduled to meet the sports minister, visit a newly built high-tech science complex, the Pyongyang Zoo as well as go bowling before he departs on Saturday.

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".

"Otto's detainment and sentence was unnecessary and appalling, and North Korea should be universally condemned for its abhorrent behavior".

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