Report: U.S. student held in North Korea granted consular visit

WASHINGTON, Aug. 31 (UPI) — The U.S. State Department said Otto Warmbier, a U.S. detainee in North Korea, was permitted one consular visit since his arrest.

The visit from a representative at the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang took place on March 2, said State Department spokesman John Kirby, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

The visit took place despite the fact Pyongyang “still routinely delays or denies consular access to U.S. citizens,” Kirby said.

Warmbier, a University of Virginia student who was detained in January, has been charged with taking down a political slogan from the Yanggakdo International Hotel, where tourists to North Korea frequently stay during closely guided tours of the country.

Warmbier confessed to his “crime” in February and was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in March.

North Korea is detaining another U.S. citizen, Virginia resident Kim Dong Chul, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison with hard labor after being charged of spying and transporting state secrets on a flash drive.

It was not clear whether Kim had been granted the same audience with the Swedish envoy, who represents U.S. interests in Pyongyang.

North Korea has typically detained U.S. citizens to make an example of individuals who are suspected of subversive acts against the state.

Kenneth Bae, a South Korea-born U.S. citizen who was given a sentence identical to Warmbier’s, spent two years doing exhausting work that took a heavy toll on his health.

Bae was hospitalized three times for diabetes, an enlarged heart and back pain before he was released in late 2014.

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