Published: Thu, June 15, 2017
Culture | By Henry Herrera

Hometown pleased that student has returned from North Korea


The 22-year-old was then taken by ambulance to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

Warmbier's parents, Fred and Cindy, said they had learnt only a week ago that their son was in a coma and had been in that condition since March 2016.

In a statement, they said: "We want the world to know how we and our son have been brutalised and terrorised by the pariah regime".

"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.

But the aide added: "You now have a channel with a senior administration official and a North Korean official with some degree of confidence".

People will be watching to see how the Trump administration responds, he said. Swedish diplomats, who represent USA interests in Pyongyang, were able to check in on Warmbier recently and reported that the young American was in a coma after being stricken with what appeared to be a case of botulism.

They are 62-year-old Kim Dong-chul, a Korean-American missionary; Korean-American professor Kim Sang-duk (or Tony Kim); and Kim Hak-song, who worked at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology.

He was charged with "hostile acts against the state".

USA diplomats, members of Congress and North Korea experts also were hesitant to declare a new chapter in bilateral relations. But American officials suspect his condition is the result of his treatment at North Korean hands, given the record of the brutal treatment of past prisoners there.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Tuesday that his department was continuing "to have discussions" with North Korea about the release of the other three imprisoned American citizens.

Warmbier was detained in January 2016 at the airport in Pyongyang while on his way home.

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For the three in North Korea, their fate largely relies on the work of the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang, which serves as a sort of intermediary between the countries, given that the United States has no official diplomatic ties to the country.

Whether the back-channel diplomacy will lead to broader talks with North Korea may depend on Warmbier's condition, and White House officials declined to comment on the geopolitical implications of his case.

The Department of State, on the orders of the president, secured the young man's release, and he returned home Tuesday. As the administration continued to push, Pyongyang urgently requested to see Yun at the United Nations in NY. "But I also wonder what compelled him to go on a tour of North Korea; it doesn't sound safe to me".

"It wasn't a situation where they asked", one official said of the US representatives.

It's unclear if Warmbier's release during Rodman's visit was purely coincidental. He visited Warmbier with two doctors on Monday, and demanded his release on humanitarian grounds. They hoped for some kind of reassurance from the family that Warmbier would be all right - that he would be the same friendly, intellectually curious, athletic, studious Otto they have always known. Then came the sudden request for the diplomatic meeting in NY, where Yun was informed of Warmbier's deteriorating health.

Tillerson called Trump at 8:35 a.m. Tuesday to inform him that Warmbier was on an airplane en route to the United States, an official said.

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

The Washington Post reports that Warmbier contracted botulism soon after his trial and never woke up.

Warmbier was found guilty and sentenced in March 2016 to 15 years hard labor.

Rodman was asked directly by CNN reporters in North Korea whether he'd spoken to President Trump or anyone else in the United States government prior to his trip, and he played coy without answering the question directly.

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