Our Last Hope for Peace With North Korea May Indeed Be Dennis Rodman
(ANTIMEDIA) â€”A short trip to North Korea that became a 17-month imprisonment is now over for Otto Warmbier, who was recently medically evacuated by the U.S. State Department while in a coma. He was serving a 15-year hard labor sentence for swiping a poster from a Pyongyang hotel.
The University of Virginia student reportedly fell into a coma after contracting botulism and taking a sleeping pill following his March 2016 trial in North Korea, according to the Washington Post, which spoke with Warmbierâ€™s family upon his release Tuesday.
â€śAt the direction of the president, the Department of State has secured the release of Otto Warmbier from North Korea,â€ť Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement Tuesday morning.
Warmbier was 21 when he was arrested on January 2, 2016, just as he was preparing to depart Pyongyang Sunan International Airport after a five-day tour of North Korea. He was charged with committing a â€śhostile actâ€ť against the state, the isolated nuclear power announced three weeks later, as reported by ABC News. He allegedly tried to steal a large propaganda poster from a staff-only level of the Pyongyang hotel he was staying in.
His hour-long trial in March 2016 resulted in a 15-year sentence of hard labor, according to the Washington Post. The good news is that Warmbier, now 22, is expected back home in Cincinnati, Ohio, by Tuesday evening. He was held in a North Korean prison for 17 months. Unfortunately, it seems his early release was due to deteriorating health, as last Monday, North Korean representatives contacted their American counterparts to alert them that Warmbier was in a coma, the Post reported.
Warmbierâ€™s parents learned of his health condition through U.S. envoys in contact with North Korean officials, but the Post was unable to reach North Korean officials for comment.
â€śAt the moment, weâ€™re just treating this like heâ€™s been in an accident,â€ť Warmbierâ€™s parents told the newspaper. â€śWe get to see our son Otto tonight.â€ť
Hours before Warmbier was taken out of North Korea, NBA basketball hall-of-famer Dennis Rodman arrived to meet the countryâ€™s president, Kim Jong-un. Ahead of Rodmanâ€™s visit, his fifth since 2013, speculation percolated as to whether he would serve any role in getting Warmbier or three other Americans held there released. U.S. officials have shot down such rumors, calling Rodmanâ€™s visit a â€śbizarre coincidence,â€ť designed to distract from Warmbierâ€™s condition, the Washington Post reported.
Rodman claims to be the only person with a friendly relationship with both Kim Jong-un and President Donald Trump. In a video uploaded to his Twitter account Tuesday, Rodman said his trip was â€śall about peaceâ€ť and thanked his sponsor, a cryptocurrency company called PotCoin designed for the legalized marijuana industry.
â€śIâ€™ll discuss my mission when I return,â€ť Rodman said on Facebook.
Meanwhile, â€śthe Department of State continues to have discussions with the DPRK [Democratic Peopleâ€™s Republic of Korea] regarding three other U.S. citizens reported detained,â€ť Secretary Tillersonâ€™s statement said.
Those other three U.S. citizens still in North Korea are Kim Dong-chul, who was arrested on charges of espionage shortly after Warmbierâ€™s arrest, and two other Korean Americans affiliated with the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, the countryâ€™s first private university. It is run by Korean American Christians, the Post reported.
As the so-called hermit kingdom continues to defy international and U.S. sanctions by launching tests of its intercontinental ballistic missiles, the Trump administration continues to float new sanctions. Tillerson suggested Tuesday that countries that do business with North Korea could be sanctioned, Reuters reported.
The Trump administration views North Korea as â€śthe most urgent and dangerous threat to peace and security,â€ť Defense Secretary Jim Mattis wrote to the House Armed Services Committee on Monday, Reuters reported.
A suspected North Korean drone crashed near the South Korea border near a U.S. missile defense system last week, the South Korean Defense Ministry reported Tuesday, according to the Associated Press.
On Tuesday morning, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer confirmed that Trump will host South Korean President Moon Jae-In at the White House from June 29 to 30.