Amid diplomatic contact, North Korea frees American student


Hours after his arrival the previous day, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced that North Korea had released an American student serving a 15-year prison term with hard labor for alleged anti-state acts.

Flamboyant former National Basketball Association star Dennis Rodman arrived in North Korea Tuesday, June 13 after saying he wants to "open the door" to the regime and claiming that US President Donald Trump would be pleased with his mission.

The University of Virginia student from suburban Cincinnati who publicly confessed to trying to steal a propaganda banner left North Korea on Tuesday morning, a foreign ministry official confirmed. Joseph Yun, the USA special envoy on North Korea, met with North Korean officials in Oslo, Norway, in May and reached an agreement for Swedish diplomats to visit Warmbier.

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".

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

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert repeatedly declined during a press briefing to comment on Warmbier's physical condition or provide further details of the diplomacy that secured his release.

Three Korean-Americans are now believed to be held in North Korea, and Tillerson said Tuesday the State Department was continuing discussions with the North Koreans about them.

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

His parents told the Washington Post newspaper their son is in a coma and has been for over a year.

The US has in the past accused North Korea of detaining its citizens to use them as pawns in negotiations over its nuclear weapons programme.

PotCoin, a company that created a digital currency to "facilitate transactions within the legalized cannabis industry", sponsored Rodman's latest trip to North Korea.

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

But in Pyongyang, the Swedes were allowed to see only one detainee, and it wasn't Warmbier. In 2013, ahead of his first trip, I wrote a tipsheet for Rodman on the vile record of the North Korean regime.

Citing two men who said they studied with him in the U.S., CNN reports that Kim likely became a citizen in the 2000s, then later moved back to China.

North Korea is prohibited from opening banks overseas, and United Nations member states are prohibited from operating financial institutions on Pyongyang's behalf.

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

In April and May, North Korea detained two other Korean-Americans, both of them affiliated with the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, a private institution run by Korean-American Christians.

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 United States market if they deal with Pyongyang.

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

Rodman isn't representing the United States government or serving as President Donald Trump's emissary, Anton said.

James Bernat, a coma expert at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire, told the Washington Post that the probability of a person recovering from a coma or vegetative state depends heavily on how long the condition has lasted.