An American student who fell into a coma while imprisoned in a North Korean labor camp returned to the United States late Tuesday after Pyongyang allowed him to be flown home, US media reported.
A military airplane carrying Otto Warmbier landed in his hometown of Cincinnati shortly before 10:20 pm (0220 GMT Wednesday), CBS News reported.
The release of Warmbier, 18 months into a 15-year sentence, came as US President Donald Trump invited South Korea’s new leader Moon Jae-In to Washington for talks on the escalating standoff over the North’s nuclear program.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said earlier in the day that his agency had “secured” the 22-year-old’s release in talks with North Korea and is pushing for three more Americans to be freed. It was not immediately clear if he had made any concessions.
The news surfaced after the flamboyant retired NBA basketball star Dennis Rodman — a former contestant on Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice” reality show — flew to Pyongyang to resume his quixotic quest to broker detente between his US homeland and Kim Jong-Un’s authoritarian regime.
But State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the visit “had nothing to do with the release”.
Warmbier’s parents Fred and Cindy announced his release in a statement to CNN on Tuesday.
“Sadly, he is in a coma and we have been told he has been in that condition since March of 2016,” they said. “We learned of this only one week ago.”
On arriving in Cincinnatti’s Lunken Airport, Warmbier was transferred to a waiting ambulance that rushed him to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center for urgent treatment, Fox News reported.