PYONGYANG, Korea, Democratic People’s Republic Of – Dennis Rodman’s visit to North Korea has been uncharacteristically low-key so far. As the administration continued to push, Pyongyang urgently requested to see Yun at the United Nations in NY. But efforts to persuade North Korea to release the men now held had not been successful until Warmbier’s release Tuesday. His parents say he’s in a coma.
ANNA FIFIELD: Once Otto Warmbier’s condition was known, I’m told that the president did become involved, that he was informed, that he personally gave the order to do everything that they could to get Otto Warmbier out.
But the first high-level encounters between the two governments could be significant, at a moment when the countries have been trading threats and readying military forces for a possible confrontation.
As Warmbier headed back to the USA on Tuesday, first daughter Ivanka Trump responded to his release on Twitter. The dialogue is regularly scheduled, but not official – until Oslo. He’d been in North Korea as part of a tour group.
A State Department spokeswoman suggested it was too soon to predict a deepening of engagement with Pyongyang.
Anna Fifield has been reporting the story for The Washington Post.
Warmbier’s parents did not attend the graduation ceremony in May, but they shared the news of Otto’s release with the student body via an email from University President Teresa Sullivan on Tuesday. He is on his way home. “I don’t know why he is there”, Nauert said. Three Americans remain in custody. “Does this go anywhere?”
USA officials dismissed this, saying he was traveling as a private citizen, but the basketball icon is probably Kim and Trump’s only mutual friend.
The North Korean account, the family said, claimed that Warmbier then fell into a coma after being given a sleeping pill.
The announcement came amid tension between Washington and Pyongyang following a series of missile tests by the North, focusing attention on an arms buildup that Pentagon chief Jim Mattis on Monday dubbed “a clear and present danger to all”. 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.
The administration sent its special envoy last month to meet with a DPRK representative in Norway.
– Kim Hak Song, who was detained in early May to be investigated for committing unspecified hostile acts, North Korea has said.
There was no immediate confirmation from USA 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. It remains to be seen if and to what degree, the US will seek to punish third party entities with suspected ties to North Korea.
The US government condemned the sentence and accused North Korea of using such American detainees as political pawns.
Following the May meeting in Oslo, North Korea urgently requested another meeting, which took place last week between the US envoy on North Korea, Joseph Yun, and the North’s ambassador at the U.N.in NY.
A North Korean foreign ministry official said Mr Warmbier was released and left the country on Tuesday morning.