US says Rodman did not help in NKorea release

A plane carrying Warmbier arrived around 10:20 p.m. CT Tuesday at Cincinnati's Lunken Airport. Two ambulances were parked near an airport hangar.

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) - Dennis Rodman, the former National Basketball Association bad boy who has palled around with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, began sightseeing in Pyongyang on Wednesday during a trip he said he hoped would "open a door" for his former "Celebrity Apprentice" boss - President Donald Trump.

Department of State spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters Rodman had nothing to do with Warmbier's release. Former NBA basketball star Dennis Rodman, second right, towers over North Korean children during his visit to Mangyongdae, the birth place of late North Korean leader Kim Il Sung on Wednesday, June 14, 2017, in Pyongyang, Nor.

Tillerson said in a statement that the U.S. State Department continues to have discussions with the DPRK regarding three other U.S. citizens reported detained.

The New York Times quoted a senior United States official as saying Washington recently received intelligence reports that Warmbier had been repeatedly beaten in custody. The U.S. does not have diplomatic relations with the reclusive country and works through Sweden to deal with North Korean officials.

Hours after his release, the United States government blamed Pyongyang for a raft of cyber attacks stretching back to 2009 and warned more were likely.

The US condemned the sentence at the time, accusing North Korea of attempting to use Warmbier as a political pawn amid heightened tensions between Washington and Pyongyang.

Otto Warmbier arrived in North Korea in December 2015 as part of a tour group. He was in a coma and had to be medically evacuated.

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Since March previous year, Otto Warmbier was in a coma. "We want the world to know how we and our son have been brutalized and terrorized by the pariah regime in North Korea". "Since we also have our citizens detained in the North. we are putting pressure on the North to free them through various channels", he said, vowing "utmost efforts".

In their hometown of Wyoming, residents tied blue and white ribbons - the colours of Wyoming High School - to trees.

A senior administration official said the Trump administration did not authorize Rodman's trip.

"It wasn't a situation where they asked", one official said of the USA representatives.

In the past, North Korea has held out until senior USA officials or statesmen came to personally bail out detainees. The basketballer said, on this trip, his aim is to try to "bring sports to North Korea".

It's not clear if Warmbier's release during Rodman's visit was purely coincidental.

Rodman has received the red-carpet treatment on four past trips since 2013, which have accomplished little in terms of diplomacy and served mainly to create publicity for the former athlete.

Rodman's first visit to North Korea set a terrifically zany precedent.

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Mr Warmbier's parents, Fred and Cindy, confirmed their son - who was imprisoned in North Korea for 17 months - was on a medevac flight.

Three weeks later, North Korea announced it was holding him for a "hostile act" against the state.

Warmbier also said he had been encouraged by the university's "Z Society", which he said he was trying to join. He was accused of committing unspecified criminal acts meant to overthrow the government.

Rodman routinely distances himself from political events in North Korea.

Warmbier appeared emotional at a news conference organized by the North Koreans before his trial in March 2016.

"Otto has been in a coma for over a year now and urgently needs proper medical care in the United States", said Bill Richardson, a veteran former diplomat and politician who has played a role in past negotiations with North Korea, said after speaking to Warmbier's parents. He was convicted in March 2016 and sentenced to 10 years hard labor, about a week after Warmbier's conviction - both sentences were handed down shortly after the US had levied steeper sanctions against North Korea in response to missile testing.

North Korea says he has been in a coma for more than a year, after taking a sleeping pill while fighting food poisoning.

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