Wednesday, 18 October, 2017

Hometown pleased that student has returned from North Korea

Lance Thomas | 18 June, 2017, 00:09

Warmbier, 22, a University of Virginia student from suburban Cincinnati, arrived in the U.S. on Tuesday evening, witnesses said.

The Warmbier family said they were informed that North Korean officials had told American envoys that their son became ill with botulism soon after his show trial. He was sentenced in March 2016 to 15 years in prison with hard labor.

Warmiber, a third-year commerce and economics student at the University of Virginia, was put on trial for "hostile acts against the state" after being accused of trying to steal a propaganda poster from his hotel room during a visit to the Stalinist-ruled country early last year.

Richardson, a former Democratic congressman, U.N. Ambassador, U.S. energy secretary and ex-governor of New Mexico, welcomed Warmbier's release but said "we are deeply concerned regarding his health".

A White House official said Trump had instructed Tillerson to take all appropriate measures to secure the release of Americans held in North Korea. The State Department would not comment on Warmbier's condition, citing privacy concerns.

His parents told the Washington Post newspaper their son is in a coma and has been for over a year. Tensions have escalated on the Korean peninsula over North Korea's nuclear and missile tests and its vow to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the US mainland, presenting US President Donald Trump with perhaps his most pressing security worry. Otto Warmbier is reportedly still in a coma, according to the Associated Press, and he was transported to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center upon his arrival in the country. Pritish Tosh, an infectious diseases physician, told the Washington Post that in some very specific instances, patients suffering from botulism may be placed in medically induced comas while being connected to a ventilator to facilitate their care, though it is now unclear if that's what happened to Warmbier.

In Warmbier's hometown of Wyoming, just outside of Cincinnati, residents tied ribbons to trees and said news of his release had sent waves of shock and joy through the community.

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.

He had not been seen in public since, and Swedish diplomats, representing USA interests, had been denied consular access to him.

He was in North Korea as a tourist with Young Pioneer Tours when he was arrested on 2 January 2016.

"We thank you for the opportunity and blessing you've given us to serve your agenda and the American people", said Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, who reports suggest may be at risk of losing his job amid internal palace squabbles. 'It's overwhelming to learn that he's been in a coma for a year, ' Miller added. 'The journey for them has been very hard, to say the least, and they still need our support and love'.

"The UVA family will continue to keep the Warmbiers in our thoughts and prayers as Otto returns to the United States and his home where he will receive the care and support of those who love him", university President Teresa Sullivan said in a statement Tuesday. "In no uncertain terms, North Korea must explain the causes of his coma".

Imprisoned in North Korea are three of a U.S. citizen.

"Fred, Cindy, and the Warmbier family have been remarkably strong throughout this ordeal". USA officials in touch with Yun and medical personnel declined to say whether Warmbier remains in a coma or to make any comment on his current medical condition.

Sen. Rob Portman of OH said in a statement that Tillerson had confirmed to him Warmbier's release.

Warmbier was supposed to graduate from the University of Virginia in May.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced that Warmbier had been freed.

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.

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.

The three are businessman Kim Dong Chul, arrested in April 2016, and two academics at the Western-funded, private Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, Tony Kim and Kim Hak-Song, arrested in April and May this year.

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