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USA official's 'quiet diplomacy' led to Warmbier's release

28 June 2017

Joseph Yun, who visited Pyongyang in the process of negotiations that culminated in the release of 22-year-old University of Virginia student Otto Warmbier, met with the "three Americans who are being held there", the State Department said Thursday. He opens his eyes and blinks spontaneously but shows no signs of understanding language or responding to verbal commands, said Dr. Daniel Kanter, professor of neurology and director of the Neurocritical Care Program.

Of Otto's parents, Cynthia and Fred Warmbier, he said: 'I can't even begin to put myself in their shoes'.

Warmbier, from Wyoming, Ohio, has been in a coma since March 2016, shortly after he was sentenced to 15 years of hard labour in North Korea, his family said on Tuesday.

Richardson, who has been in close contact with the Warmbier family, said he did not believe Pyongyang's explanation that the student's condition was the result of botulism and a sleeping pill.

Hospital officials refused to speculate on Warmbier's long-term prognosis, citing privacy with the patient's family, but praised the "remarkable courage" of the Warmbiers.

His father, Fred Warmbier, told Fox News that his son was "terrorized and brutalized" and has been in a coma for more than a year.

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"I knelt down by his side, and I hugged him, and I told him I missed him and I was so glad that he made it home", Fred Warmbier said.

Otto Warmbier, 22, had been sentenced by a North Korean court to 15 years of hard labor in prison after he was accused of trying to steal a propaganda banner at his Pyongyang hotel.

Also, Kanter said the type and pattern of damage they see on the latest MRI scan is not what they normally see in patients with traumatic brain injuries.

Warmbier was on a tour of North Korea early past year when he allegedly tried to steal a propaganda banner from his hotel and was charged with hostile acts against the state.

The reports sent by North Koreans do not shed any light on what caused the brain injury or its circumstances.

A senior United States official said that Warmbier was singled out for particularly brutal beatings while in captivity, but little else is known of his ordeal.

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Fred and Cindy Warmbier will speak at 10 a.m. today.

Doctors at the UC Health University of Cincinnati Medical Center said the young man was able to breathe on his own, but his neurological state was best described "as a state of unresponsive wakefulness". However, doctors say they found no signs of physical trauma after examining Warmbier.

United States officials repeatedly said Rodman was travelling to North Korea as a private citizen, despite speculation he was working as an unofficial emissary for Trump.

"There is no excuse for any civilized nation to have kept his condition secret and denied him top-notch medical care for so long", he said. The U.S. government accuses North Korea of using such detainees as political pawns.

His son went to North Korea as part of a group tour arranged by a China-based company.

Richardson said he had yet to inform the Trump administration about his letter, but had briefed the State Department and White House in recent weeks on his past efforts. "He was home and we believe he could sense that", the family's statement said.

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DPRK is short for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. A Young Pioneer Tours official told a news site that focuses on the region that only one person - Otto Warmbier - has ever been arrested among the 8,000-plus global travelers who have taken part in the company's tours.