US says Rodman did not help in NKorea release

Warmbier, 22, went to North Korea on a group tour and was arrested January 2, 2016 as he prepared to depart from Pyongyang International Airport.

Otto Warmbier, an American university student held prisoner in North Korea for 17 months and said by his family to be in a coma, was medically evacuated from the reclusive country after a rare visit there from a high-level United States official.

The University of Virginia student, who was a native of the Cincinnati, Ohio, area, was sentenced to 15 years of prison and hard labor for stealing a political propaganda poster from his Pyongyang hotel room.

"The release is very welcome".

Joseph Yun, the US envoy on North Korea, met with North Korean foreign ministry representatives in Norway last month, a White House official said.

That was used as evidence in his hour-long trial, during which North Korea accused him of committing "hostile acts" against the regime at the urging of a purported member of a church in his home state of OH, a secretive university organization and the Central Intelligence Agency.

They also said they are grateful Mr Warmbier "will finally be with people who love him".

Three other American citizens are being detained in North Korea, at a time when Kim Jong Un has been firing missiles and threatening to strike the United States. He is looking to increase economic and diplomatic pressure on North Korea, with help from China but has said he's open to meeting Kim.

A North Korean foreign ministry official said Warmbier was released and left the country Tuesday morning.

Before his trial, Warmbier had said he tried to steal a propaganda banner as a trophy for an acquaintance who wanted to hang it in her church.

Yun then met last week with the North Korean ambassador at the U.N.in NY.

Warmbier is from the Cincinnati suburb Wyoming.

Department of State spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters Rodman had nothing to do with Warmbier's release.

Fred and Cindy Warmbier said they have been told their son has been in a coma since March 2016, and they had learned of this only one week ago.

The Trump administration sought to dampen speculation about Rodman's role by sharing details of its diplomatic efforts to win consular access and freedom for Americans held in Pyongyang.

Yun was instructed to prepare to travel to Pyongyang with the intention of bringing Warmbier back to the United States.

The White House says a USA envoy met with North Korean foreign ministry representatives in Norway last month as part of efforts to win freedom for Americans held by Pyongyang.

There was no immediate confirmation from US officials of North Korea's description of his illness - including whether he was stricken with botulism, a potentially fatal disease that is caused by a toxin but is not usually associated with loss of consciousness.

North Korea on Tuesday freed one of the detainees, Otto Warmbier.

Tillerson said that the State Department is continuing "to have discussions" with North Korea about the release of other three American citizens who are jailed there.

"All we know so far is what they have told us", the official said.

The news of Warmbier's release comes the same day as basketball star Dennis Rodman arrived in Pyongyang for an expected four-night visit. "My goal is to go over there and try to see if I can keep bringing sports to North Korea".

Previous detainees have been released after visits from high-profile Americans, including former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.

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