Former NBA player Dennis Rodman arrives in North Korea

Visitors and medical personnel enter a transport plane carrying Otto Warmbier a 22-year-old University of Virginia undergraduate student who was imprisoned in North Korea in March 2016 before he is transferred to an ambulan

"Otto has been terrorized and brutalized for 18 months by a pariah regime in North Korea", the father said in an interview scheduled to air Thursday night.

Americans have been sentenced to years in North Korean prisons for such seemingly minor offenses as stealing a political banner and likely could not expect leniency if the country's drug laws were violated.

A statement issued in NY by a Rodman publicist said the former National Basketball Association player is in the rare position of being friends with the leaders of both North Korea and the United States. It is unclear what the status of the other three American citizens held in North Korea is, but this process jump-started the expedited release of Warmbier.

U.S. officials refused to comment on his condition, but former ambassador and New Mexico governor Bill Richardson said he had spoken with the family.

President Moon Jae-in and his US counterpart Donald Trump will hold their first face-to-face talks since they both took office in Washington on June 29-30 (local time). He said Warmbier, of Wyoming, in suburban Cincinnati, was en route to the U.S.

Otto Warmbier's parents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier, confirmed in a statement that their son is in a coma. He said he is "just trying to open a door" on a mission that he thinks his former "Celebrity Apprentice" boss would support.

Former NBA star Dennis Rodman thanked a digital currency for the marijuana industry for sponsoring his current visit to North Korea for meetings with dictator Kim Jong Un.

Warmbier's family said they were told by North Korean officials, through contacts with American envoys, that Warmbier fell ill from botulism some time after his March 2016 trial and lapsed into a coma after taking a sleeping pill, the Washington Post reported. The 22-year-old was then taken by ambulance to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

Warmbier was released by North Korea, where he was serving a 15-year prison term with hard labor for alleged anti-state acts.

The State Department advises "strongly" against visits by US citizens to North Korea, noting that at least 16 Americans have been detained there over the last decade.

But North Korea has so far rejected South Korean civic groups' bids to visit the North for exchanges, taking issue with South Korea's support of the latest United Nations sanctions. "Thank God", they told CNN.

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University of Virginia president Teresa Sullivan said the whole UVA community was relieved to learn of Warmbier's release but was "deeply concerned and saddened to learn from his family that he is in a coma".

The Warmbier family said they were informed that North Korean officials had told American envoys that their son became ill with botulism soon after his show trial in March past year.

Sen. Bernie Sanders says the man who shot a congressman and four other people was apparently a volunteer on his losing 2016 presidential campaign.

Early stories suggested there might be a connection between Rodman's arrival in Pyongyang Tuesday and North Korea's release of the comatose Otto Warmbier.

His entourage includes Joseph Terwilliger, a professor who has accompanied Rodman on previous trips to North Korea.

The North has occasionally jailed United States citizens on charges ranging from hostile acts to illegal entry, and released them only after visits by high-profile figures including former president Bill Clinton. His parents say he has been in a coma and was medically evacuated.

Regardless of how Warmbier's coma began, his prognosis could be grim, given that he has been in a state of unconsciousness for approximately a year.

Tillerson, at a U.S. Senate hearing on Tuesday, declined to comment on Warmbier's condition.

Warmbier was to have graduated last month had he not been detained.

North Korea regularly accuses Washington and Seoul of sending spies to overthrow its government to enable the USA -backed South Korean government to take control of the Korean Peninsula.

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