North Korea releases detained U.S. student Otto Warmbier

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Tuesday that North Korean officials have released U.S. citizen Otto Warmbier, who has been imprisoned in North Korea since early 2016.

Warmbier, a 22-year-old University of Virginia student from suburban Cincinnati, had been serving a 15-year hard labor sentence for crimes against the state. He had been accused of trying to steal a propaganda sign from a hotel while visiting the country as a tourist in January 2016.

The announcement of his release came shortly after former NBA star Dennis Rodman arrived in Pyongyang amid rising tensions between the United States and North Korea.

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Otto Warmbier, North Korea sentences US student to 15 years of hard labor
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Otto Warmbier, North Korea sentences US student to 15 years of hard labor
Otto Frederick Warmbier (C), a University of Virginia student who was detained in North Korea since early January, is taken to North Korea's top court in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this photo released by Kyodo March 16, 2016. North Korea's supreme court sentenced American student Warmbier, who was arrested while visiting the country, to 15 years of hard labour for crimes against the state, China's Xinhua news agency reported on Wednesday. Mandatory credit REUTERS/Kyodo Mandatory credit REUTERS/Kyodo ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. student Otto Warmbier speaks at a news conference in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang February 29, 2016. The U.S. student held in North Korea since early January was detained for trying to steal an item bearing a propaganda slogan from his Pyongyang hotel and has confessed to "severe crimes" against the state, the North's official media said on Monday. REUTERS/KCNA ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA.
U.S. student Otto Warmbier bows at a news conference in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang February 29, 2016. The U.S. student held in North Korea since early January was detained for trying to steal an item bearing a propaganda slogan from his Pyongyang hotel and has confessed to "severe crimes" against the state, the North's official media said on Monday. REUTERS/KCNA ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA.
U.S. student Otto Warmbier speaks at North Korea's top court, in this photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on March 16, 2016. North Korea's supreme court sentenced Warmbier, a 21-year-old University of Virginia student, who was arrested while visiting the country, to 15 years of hard labour on Wednesday for crimes against the state. REUTERS/KCNA ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS.
Otto Frederick Warmbier, a University of Virginia student who has been detained in North Korea since early January, attends a news conference in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this photo released by Kyodo February 29, 2016. Warmbier was detained for trying to steal a propaganda slogan from his Pyongyang hotel and has confessed to "severe crimes" against the state, the North's official media said on Monday. Warmbier, 21, was detained before boarding his flight to China over an unspecified incident at his hotel, his tour agency told Reuters in January. Mandatory credit REUTERS/Kyodo ATTENTION EDITORS - FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN.
U.S. student Otto Warmbier has his fingerprints taken at North Korea's top court, in this photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on March 16, 2016. North Korea's supreme court sentenced Warmbier, a 21-year-old University of Virginia student, who was arrested while visiting the country, to 15 years of hard labour on Wednesday for crimes against the state. REUTERS/KCNA ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS.
Otto Frederick Warmbier (C), a University of Virginia student who was detained in North Korea since early January, is taken out of North Korea's top court after being sentenced, in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this photo released by Kyodo March 16, 2016. North Korea's supreme court sentenced American student Warmbier, who was arrested while visiting the country, to 15 years of hard labour for crimes against the state, China's Xinhua news agency reported on Wednesday. Mandatory credit REUTERS/Kyodo ATTENTION EDITORS - FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN. THIS IMAGE WAS PROCESSED BY REUTERS TO ENHANCE QUALITY, AN UNPROCESSED VERSION WILL BE PROVIDED SEPARATELY.
U.S. student Otto Warmbier reacts at a news conference in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang February 29, 2016. The U.S. student held in North Korea since early January was detained for trying to steal an item bearing a propaganda slogan from his Pyongyang hotel and has confessed to "severe crimes" against the state, the North's official media said on Monday. REUTERS/KCNA ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
WYOMING, OHIO - APRIL 26: Fred and Cindy Warmbier stand in their home. Their son, Otto Warmbier, is incarcerated in North Korea after having been convicted and sentenced to 15 years' hard labor for 'hostile acts against the DPRK'. (Photo Maddie McGarvey/For the Washington Post)
Charlottesville VA - May 20: Emmett Saulnier of Cincinnati celebrates graduation at the University of Virginia, Sat. May 20, 2017 while remembering his friend Otto Warmbier who is being detained in North Korea following a trip there in January 2016. (Photo by Norm Shafer/ For The Washington Post via Getty Images).
Charlottesville VA - May 20: Dan Matson of Ashburn, Va., Ned Ende of Richmond, Va. and Tyler Rihn of Leesburg, Va. celebrate graduation at the University of Virginia, Sat. May 20, 2017 while remembering their friend Otto Warmbier who is being detained in North Korea following a trip there in January 2016. (Photo by Norm Shafer/ For The Washington Post via Getty Images).
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According to a statement released by the secretary of state, Warmbier is en route to the United States and will be reunited with his family upon his return. Tillerson noted that his department secured Warmbier's at the direction of the president.

"The Department of State continues to have discussions with the DPRK regarding three other U.S. citizens reported detained," he added in his statement.

Warmbier, who had not been seen since his trial in March 2016, had apparently been in a coma, according to the Washington Post.

SEE MORE: Report: Suspected North Korea drone spied on US anti-missile system

North Korean officials reportedly claimed Warmbier came down with a case of botulism shortly after his trial and was given a sleeping pill and has not awakened since.

"Our son is coming home," Fred Warmbier told the Post. "At the moment, we're just treating this like he's been in an accident. We get to see our son Otto tonight."

The other imprisoned Americans include Kim Dong Chul, arrested for espionage in October 2015, and Tony Kim and Kim Hak-Song, who were both detained this year.

Warmbier was originally expected to graduate with the University of Virginia class of 2017 this past May. His classmates honored him at graduation.

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