North Korea’s foreign minister defended the jailing of University of Virginia student Otto Warmbier for alleged anti-state activities but said Saturday that he would inform authorities in Pyongyang there is concern in the U.S. for the student, and noted other detainees have been released before serving their full sentences.
North Korea’s highest court sentenced Warmbier, 21, to 15 years in prison after he confessed he tried to steal a propaganda banner as a trophy.
The U.S. government condemned the sentence, accusing North Korea of using such American detainees as political pawns. Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong countered that the student was being used by Washington to create internal disturbances.
Ri said North Korea has let previous detainees leave the country. “I will let the corresponding authorities know when I go back to Pyongyang that you are … very much interested in how he is doing.”