News / Asia

    US Urges North Korea to Pardon US College Student

    American student Otto Warmbier (C) is escorted at the Supreme Court in Pyongyang, North Korea, March 16, 2016. Warmbier was sentenced Wednesday to 15 years in prison with hard labor.
    American student Otto Warmbier (C) is escorted at the Supreme Court in Pyongyang, North Korea, March 16, 2016. Warmbier was sentenced Wednesday to 15 years in prison with hard labor.
    VOA News

    The U.S. government is calling on North Korea to pardon an American college student sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for committing crimes against the state.

    "There is no greater priority of this administration than welfare of citizens abroad," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Wednesday.

    He said it is "increasingly clear" that Pyongyang is using U.S. citizens as "pawns to pursue a political agenda," and he called for Otto Warmbier's release.

    Warmbier was arrested in North Korea in January as he was trying to leave the country after visiting with a tour group.

    During an appearance before a group of foreign and domestic journalists in Pyongyang last month, the 21-year-old student at the University of Virginia admitted to removing a banner with a political slogan from a staff-only area of the hotel where the group was staying.

    Warmbier said the mother of a friend offered him a used car worth $10,000 in exchange for the banner, which she wanted to display as a "trophy" in her church. The woman said if he was caught, Warmbier's mother would get $200,000.

    WATCH: Related video of American student detained in North Korea

    Detained American in North Korea Makes 'Public Confession'i
    X
    February 29, 2016 1:22 PM
    American college student Otto Warmbier, detained in North Korea, publicly confessed to attempting to steal a political banner from a Pyongyang hotel.

    North Korea has often detained Americans and other foreign citizens on trumped up charges.

    The detainees are usually brought before foreign journalists to read statements confessing to crimes committed against the dictatorial regime.

    The statements are widely considered to have been coerced, and detainees often recant their confessions after their release.

    Just hours before Warmbier was sentenced, former U.S. ambassador Bill Richardson said he met with two North Korean diplomats at the United Nations in New York and appealed for the student's release.

    Richardson has gone to North Korea several times in recent years to secure freedom for jailed Americans.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Anonymous from: North Korea
    March 18, 2016 9:39 PM
    What do Americans not understand about the state department issuing warnings about not visiting North Korea?? Somebody please answer that question for me!!

    by: Anonymous
    March 16, 2016 11:27 PM
    This dumbass needs to serve his time and quit whining. Had it been a North Korean ripping off the poster, they would have been executed for it. No sympathy for him for bring an idiot, or any of those jailed religiously-inspired American nutcases either.
    In Response

    by: Lookatthisguy
    March 17, 2016 1:13 PM
    Oh look, an idiot speaking his mind hiding in anonymity. If you wouldn't try the same or find some way to subvert their terror network called government, then shut the hell up and stay in your safety hole.

    by: PASTOR RIC D T WILSON from: GOLD COAST, QUEENSLAND.
    March 16, 2016 7:40 PM
    This is obviously a trumped up sentence and horribly unfair. A $20 fine would have been considered abnormal. Time for the world to introduce harsh new sanctions on this disgusting administration and stop their devious trading arrangements such as dumping drugs on us all. People should listen to the US government and avoid travelling to this dangerous country.

    by: Lou from: Atlanta
    March 16, 2016 9:05 AM
    BBC report last night said he could be released in a year.

    by: james smith from: south carolina
    March 16, 2016 7:37 AM
    That what you get when you get a berny or hillary idiot in a communist country.He will have 15yrs to think about it

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