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North Korea says it kept Warmbier alive, blames Obama for his death

26 June 2017, 03:29 | Gladys Abbott

North Korea has said it is the "biggest victim" in a staunch denial it tortured a USA student who died just days after being released by the regime.

The article published by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) was Pyongyang's first reaction to the death of Otto Warmbier. But the spokesman, whom state news did not identify, said that American doctors who flew to Pyongyang to evacuate Mr. Warmbier recognized that the North had "provided him with medical treatment and brought him back alive" after his "heart was almost stopped".

North Korea denied allegations that American student Otto Warmbier had been mistreated while in Pyongyang's custody, and blamed the US administration of President Barack Obama for his death.

Doctors there said Warmbier had suffered a severe neurological injury from an unknown cause.

Sentenced to hard labor for stealing a political poster from a North Korean hotel, the 22-year-old Warmbier was medically evacuated in a coma last week after almost 18 months in captivity.

He'd been accused of trying to steal a propaganda banner while visiting North Korea.

Otto Warmbier, a student at the University of Virginia, was travelling with a tour group when he was arrested at Pyongyang airport in January 2016.

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Officials in Washington and Pyongyang said Rodman's visit had nothing to do with Warmbier going home. He had been held captive for 17 months and spent the previous year in a coma.

"It would be easy at a moment like this to focus on all that we lost - future time that won't be spent with a warm, engaging, brilliant young man whose curiosity and enthusiasm for life knew no bounds", Fred and Cindy Warmbier said in a statement. Three Americans also remain in custody in the North.

Kenneth Bae, an American who was jailed for almost two years in North Korea, told CNN he believed Warmbier could have been tortured, and cautioned other Americans against going to North Korea.

The spokesman said North Korea could not understand why Mr. Warmbier died so suddenly after returning home because his health indicators were "normal" upon his release. But U.S. doctors said they found no evidence of the illness.

A funeral service for Otto Warmbier has been held at his old school in Ohio, US. It says his family objected to an autopsy.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he held North Korea responsible for the student's death.

US President Donald Trump has slammed the incarceration and eventual death of 22-year-old Otto Warmbier as "a total disgrace".

"He was able to connect with grownups and children, and he was one of those people that made you feel like you were his best friend, even though you had just met him", said his college counselor, Cynthia Meis, who attended the service.

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