Amid diplomatic contact, North Korea frees American student

"In no uncertain terms North Korea must explain the causes of his coma", Bill Richardson, a veteran former diplomat and politician who has played a role in past negotiations with North Korea, said in a statement after speaking to Warmbier's parents. His parents later told the Washington Post that their son was being transported on a US military plane in a coma. As for the current trip, here's what Rodman said about his aspirations, in a video released just before he departed: "Hopefully we come back with a positive attitude, and hope that the door can be a little bit open".

"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".

The news of Warmbier's release comes the same day as basketball star Dennis Rodman arrived in Pyongyang for an expected four-night visit. North Korea has released Otto Warmbier, an American serving a 15-year prison term with hard labor for alleged anti-state acts, Tillerson said in an announcement that came as former National Basketball Association player Dennis Rodman was paying a return visit to Pyongyang.

Rodman spoke to reporters at the Beijing International Airport before leaving for Pyongyang.

U.S. tourism to North Korea is legal, but the U.S. State Department strongly advises against it.

"We learned of (his coma) only one week ago", the family's statement said.

Americans are regarded as enemies in North Korea because the two countries never signed a peace treaty at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.

North Korea released another hostage, Otto Warmbier, after 17 months of captivity on Tuesday.

Observers worry that Kim will use Rodman to try to improve his own public image.

Washington has no trade links with North Korea, and has been considering sanctioning companies from third countries who deal with the secretive regime of Kim Jong-un in violation of United Nations resolutions. Experts say each launch gets the country closer to its stated goal of developing a nuclear-armed weapon capable of reaching the United States.

There are now three American citizens being held in North Korea.

Nearly immediately on taking office in January, Trump and his team - having been briefed by outgoing leader Barack Obama - declared the North's attempts to build, test and arm a nuclear-capable ballistic missile to be Washington's biggest threat. The U.S. does not have diplomatic relations with the reclusive country and works through Sweden to deal with North Korean officials.

In May of 2013, Rodman had tweeted that he wanted Kim to quote: "cut Kenneth Bae loose". However, it must do so without making the kind of outlandish concessions that the Obama administration made as a matter of course to secure the release of US citizens held by Iran.

Hours after video of the news conference emerged, the Obama administration announced broad new sanctions against North Korea. Saulnier immediately called some of their closest friends. US officials did not confirm those details.

Hours after the release, the USA government blamed Pyongyang for a raft of cyber attacks stretching back to 2009, while warning more were likely. Rodman said the detainees aren't the reason he's traveling to see Kim.

VOA Correspondent Brian Padden reported this story from Seoul. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted the report for Learning English. Join us in a conversation about world events, the newsgathering process or whatever aspect of the news universe you find interesting or important.

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