American college student Otto Warmbier has landed back in the United States after more than 17 months in detention in North Korea.
Warmbier has been in a coma for over a year, according to his parents, and was rushed to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center late Tuesday, a hospital spokeswoman said.
His return to the US comes as questions swirl about his health and what happened to him while he was detained by the North Korean government. The 22-year-old contracted botulism last year and is in “bad shape,” a source close to the family told CNN. North Korea told a US official that Warmbier contracted botulism and slipped into the coma after taking a sleeping pill, a senior State Department official told CNN.
Since last March, the US had been pressing North Korea to let Swedish officials see the four Americans, the senior State Department official told CNN. When the Swedes finally got the okay to visit, the North Koreans immediately asked for a meeting with Joe Yun, the US envoy in New York, when he was told about Otto Warmbier’s condition.
In that meeting about a week ago, Yun was told that Warmbier had contracted botulism a year ago and went into a coma after taking a sleeping pill. US officials then urged those with the ability to persuade Pyongyang to ratchet up the pressure to get him released, said a source, who is familiar with the government’s efforts.
A second senior State Department official said the US has not yet accepted the North Korean version of events in terms of the timing and cause of how Warmbier fell into a coma. “All we know so far is what they have told us,” the official said. “This is the North Korean version of events. We won’t know anything for sure until doctors are able to fully evaluate Otto’s condition.”