An American student who was serving a 15-year prison term in North Korea has been released and is on his way home to the United States, according to the State Department.
“At the direction of the president, the Department of State has secured the release of Otto Warmbier from North Korea,” the department announced in a statement attributed to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
Warmbier, a 21-year-old University of Virginia student, was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in North Korea in March 2016 after being accused of attempting to steal a propaganda poster from his Pyongyang hotel room while on a visit to the country.
“The Department of State continues to have discussions with the DPRK regarding three other U.S. citizens reported detained,” the statement said.
An administration official told ABC News that Tillerson called President Trump at 8:35 a.m. ET to inform him that Warmbier was on a plane en route to the United States. The official said the last instruction the president gave Tillerson was “take care of Otto.”
Warmbier was visiting North Korea as part of a tourist group arranged by Young Pioneer Tours, a tour agency based in Xian, China. He was arrested on Jan. 2, 2016, at Pyongyang Sunan International Airport on the last day of a five-day tour.
Three weeks later, North Korea announced it was holding Warmbier for a “hostile act” against the state.
SOURCE: MEGHAN KENEALLY and CONOR FINNEGAN