Ottoa Frederick Warmbier, 21, an American Student at University of Virginia who was visiting North Korea was arrested earlier this year in the month of January in North Korea for trying to steal a propaganda sign from a hotel during his stay there.
North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency reported that Warmbier took down propaganda sign in Pyongyang so he could exchange it for money outside the country which is considered as an “hostile act” by North Korea.
Warmbier had tearfully apologized for the same and also appeared on TV confessing that a church group had asked him to bring back a “trophy” from is trip in North Korea. He was also quoted saying that this is, “The Worst Mistake of his Life”
Steven Evans of the BBC in South Korea said that the sentence of 15 year is very high compare to those given to the foreigners in the past, this could be due to the high tensions prevailing between US and North Korea. The UN has imposed some of its tougher sanctions on North Korea recently, after the hostile attitude of North Korea.
The imprisonment of Warmbier, if confirmed, would further chill relations with the U.S. as the Obama administration seeks to ratchet up pressure on the regime in Pyongyang over a fourth nuclear test in January and a long-range rocket launch weeks later. The United Nations Security Council this month passed a resolution tightening sanctions on North Korea, including a ban on exports of certain minerals — a key source of hard currency for the Kim Jong Un regime.
The United States has no diplomatic or consular relations with the North, and the Swedish embassy in Pyongyang provides limited consular services to US citizens detained there.
The sentencing comes a day after veteran US diplomat Bill Richardson met North Korean officials at the UN in New York to try to push for Warmbier’s release. Mr Richardson has previously been involved in negotiations to secure the release of Americans from North Korea detention.
Warmbier is one of three North Americans currently detained in North Korea, which last month sentenced a 60-year- old Canadian pastor to life imprisonment with hard labour on sedition charges.
Detained foreigners are often required to make a public, officially-scripted acknowledgement of wrongdoing, and Warmbier was paraded in front of reporters and diplomats in Pyongyang at the end of last month.