An American student who was arrested in North Korea in January has been sentenced by the North Korean government to 15 years of hard labor for "crimes against the state."
Otto Frederick Warmbier, 21, was originally arrested on Jan. 2 because he had allegedly entered as a tourist intending "to destroy the country's unity," BBC quoted North Korean state news agency KCNA.
Warmbier was arrested as he was about to board a plane leaving the country and was part of a trip organized by China-based Young Pioneer Tours, CNN reports.
The student gave an emotional press conference in February in which he admitted to attempting to steal a banner with a political slogan from his hotel in Pyongang. The admission of guilt may have been made under duress.
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Reading from a statement, Warmbier said the following:
I committed the crime of taking down a political slogan from the staff holding area of the Yanggakdo International Hotel.
I never, never should have allowed myself to be lured by the United States administration to commit a crime in this country.
I wish that the United States administration never manipulate people like myself in the future to commit crimes against foreign countries. I entirely beg you, the people and government of the DPRK, for your forgiveness. Please! I made the worst mistake of my life!
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The 'hostile act' committed by Warmbier is alleged by the North Korean government to have been instigated by a member of an Ohio church, a university organization and even the CIA, according to CNN.
Warmbier's sentence comes at a time of increasingly tense relations between the U.S. and North Korea. Kim Jong-un has called for new nuclear warhead tests and last week, the country fired two short-range ballistic missiles toward the sea. Additionally, the past 8 weeks have seen the largest-ever joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea.