Fifteen years hard labour for stealing sign in North Korea

Warmbier at an earlier news conference.

A STUDENT from the US has been given 15 years hard labour in North Korea for attempting to steal a propaganda sign from a hotel. 

Otto Warmbier visited North Korea in January and was arrested for crimes against the state. 

Later appearing on state TV, soon after the arrest, he apparently confessed and said that a church group had asked him to bring back a ‘trophy’ from his trip. 

Compared to past sentences this court ruling is tough to say the least. North Korea could be retaliating as a means of pressuring countries imposing restrictions and pre-emptive military drills such as the US and South Korea. 

North Korean state news agency KCNA said the student was convicted under an article of the criminal code relating to subversion. This was the verdict handed down by the Supreme Court.

Arrested on January 2, trying to leave North Korea, Warmbier was a student at the University of Virginia. He was accused of committing ‘hostile acts’.

The news agency went on to insist that Warmbier has gone to North Korea with the aim of destroying the country’s unity and that he had been ‘manipulated’ by the US government.

Warmbier has previously appeared at a press conference in Pyongyang where he tearfully explained that it was the worst mistake of his life. 

He also said, in a remarkable pre-prepared and rehearsed line, “The aim of my task was to harm the motivation and work ethic of the Korean people. This was a very foolish aim.”

The news of the sentence comes a day after Bill Richardson, veteran US diplomat met North Korean officials at the UN in New York to try to push for Warmbier’s release.

Further to North Korea’s ‘nuclear tests’ the UN ramped up toughest sanctions seen against the country. In retaliation, North Korea has ramped its war-mongering rhetoric. 

Analysts doubt whether North Korea has the power or capacity to carry out a nuclear attack against South Korea and the US, despite threats from the county’s leader, Kim Jong-un. 

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