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Otto Warmbier's parents condemn North Korea after son's release

By
Elizabeth Shim
Otto Warmbier, the U.S. student who was held in North Korea since January 2016, has been hospitalized since returning to Cincinnati, Ohio, Tuesday night. File Photo by EPA/KCNA
Otto Warmbier, the U.S. student who was held in North Korea since January 2016, has been hospitalized since returning to Cincinnati, Ohio, Tuesday night. File Photo by EPA/KCNA

June 14 (UPI) -- Otto Warmbier, the Universityi of Virginia student who was held captive in North Korea since January 2016, arrived in his home state of Ohio in a comatose state.

His parents are not happy about his condition.

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Warmbier was released this week after negotiations between United States and North Korea diplomats culminated in a visit to North Korea by U.S. Special Envoy Joseph Yun, NPR reported Wednesday.

During his visit, Yun asked North Korean officials to see Warmbier. When the U.S. official learned that the 22-year-old student had spent a year in a coma, he demanded his immediate release, according to multiple reports.

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White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday night diplomatic actions were taken because "bringing Otto home was a big priority for" U.S. President Donald Trump, NPR reported.

Warmbier's parents are relieved yet angry North Korea may have mistreated their son.

"We want the world to know how we and our son have been brutalized and terrorized by the pariah regime," said Fred and Cindy Warmbier, the BBC reported.

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The report cited speculation that Warmbier may have fallen ill due to physical assault in prison.

Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for attempting to steal a propaganda poster from a hotel while visiting North Korea as part of a group tour in 2016.

North Korea has previously held Americans captive in order to use them as bargaining chips in prospective negotiations.

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The Kim Jong Un regime, however, may have lost interest in Warmbier after he succumbed to a coma and could have died in North Korea custody, according to Richard Bush, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.

Bush pointed out Warmbier had "been in a coma for a very long time," and that North Korean authorities "probably didn't want him to die," Radio Free Asia reported.

Death while in captivity would have yielded no concessions for North Korea from Kim's perspective, according to the report.

Three other U.S. citizens are still in detention.

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