The University Of Virginia student being held in North Korea was sentenced earlier today to 15 years hard labor in prison for trying to steal a propaganda sign from a hotel in Pyongyang.
21-year-old economics major and Cincinnati native Otto Warmbier who had gone to North Korea with a tour group, was convicted after a swiftone-hour trial in the Supreme Court. Video footage showed Warmbier, dressed in the same clothes he was wearing during a highly choreographed news conference last month, being led into the court room in handcuffs.
Diplomats from the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang, which represents American interests in North Korea because the United States does not have diplomatic relations with the country, were present at the trial.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Wednesday afternoon that the administration is urging the North Korean government to pardon Warmbier, grant him special amnesty, and release him.
“The allegations for which this individual was arrested and imprisoned would not give rise to arrest or imprisonment in the United States, or just about any country in the world,” Earnest said. “It is increasingly clear the North Korean government seeks to use these U.S. citizens as pawns for a political agenda.”
North Korea has detained and convicted a number of Americans in recent years and used them as bargaining chips with the United States. Recent detainees include Kenneth Bae, a Korean American missionary who was sentenced to 15 years’ hard labor, and was released after 18 months. As a result of this among a slew of other reasons, the US State Department strongly urges US citizens not to travel to North Korea.
It’s possible that Warmbier will be released early but do you agree that the punishment is too harsh for the crime committed? Should Warmbier have traveled to North Korea in the first place and would you go?