Family Says Otto Warmbier, American Released By North Korea, Has Died

Otto Warmbier, the University of Virginia student who was freed from North Korean custody last week, has died, his family confirms.

The China-based tour agency that took USA student Otto Warmbier to Pyongyang said on Tuesday (June 20) it would stop taking Americans to the reclusive state after the 22-year-old died following 18 months in North Korean detention.

He was arrested as a tourist to North Korea in January of previous year for trying to steal an item bearing a propaganda slogan, according to the country's media.

President Trump spoke out about Warmbier's death Monday, calling North Korea a "brutal regime".

Warmbier's family issued a statement immediately following his death, blaming North Koreans for the poor physical and mental condition Warmbier was in when he arrived back in the States.

"We choose to focus on the time we were given to be with this remarkable person", they said.

The North Korean government claimed that Warmbier slipped into a coma after he suffered from botulism - food poisoning - and took a sleeping pill from which he never woke. The regime stated that the student was returned to his family for "humanitarian reasons". But within a day the countenance of his face changed and he was at peace.

He was kept there after giving a tearful press conference and was not seen again until last week when he was carried off a private medical plane upon his return to the US. His parents said their son was coerced into a confession.

The 22-year-old was medically evacuated to the United States on Tuesday last week, suffering from severe brain damage.

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American student Otto Warmbier is presented to reporters on February 29, 2016, in Pyongyang, North Korea, following his arrest.

They added: "He was home and we believe he could sense that". He looked very uncomfortable - nearly anguished.

Other well-known North Korea tour operators, including Koryo Tours, founded by British expatriates in Beijing, and Uri Tours, with offices in New Jersey and Shanghai, said this week they are "reviewing" their policies for American citizens ahead of a possible travel ban that has been mooted by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American missionary who spent nearly two years in a North Korean prison before he was released in November 2014, issued a statement asking people to pray for Warmbier's family. The China-based tour group said in a statement that despite constant requests, they were denied the opportunity to meet him.

It remains unclear what caused the University of Virginia student's severe health problems when he was in North Korea.

"The strength and love of their family continues to inspire us all", Brown tweeted.

"Otto's a young, thrill-seeking, great kid who was going to be in that part of the world for a college experience", Fred Warmbier explained.

"If Otto had anything schoolwork-related, job-related, family-related that he needed to do", Otto's friend Ned Ende told the Washington Post, "there was absolutely nothing you could say to him to convince him to do stuff with you".

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