Tillerson: North Korea releases US citizen Otto Warmbier

Before arriving this time, Rodman told reporters that Trump would be happy with the trip, since he was "trying to accomplish something that we both need", sparking speculation that he may be operating as an unofficial envoy.

They added they were grateful their son "will finally be with people who love him".

"I know the Trump administration has been trying half-heartedly to start a dialogue with the North Koreans", Joel Wit, a veteran of previous back channel dialogues with North Korea, said Monday night in Washington.

Rodman promoted his past visits as a form of informal "basketball diplomacy", using sports and as a way to bridge divides, said Daniel Pinkston, a professor of International Relations at Troy University in Seoul.

Warmbier was a University of Virginia student when he chose to go to North Korea with a tour group.

Mr Warmbier, a student from the University of Virgina, went with his tour group to North Korea in January 2016.

Rodman, who backed the president during his campaign, also said in March that Trump liked Kim and vice versa.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson confirmed the release, and said Washington remains in talks with the isolated regime "regarding three other U.S. citizens reported detained".

There is no way of knowing yet whether the North Korean version of events is true, but the Warmbiers were told their son was in a coma the whole time.

The retired athlete was a former contestant on U.S. President Donald Trump's reality TV show "Celebrity Apprentice", which Trump hosted before running for office, and went on to endorse Trump during election season.

CNN, citing two unnamed North Korean officials, said Rodman was expected to arrive in Pyongyang on Tuesday, but gave no additional details on the goal of the trip.

Tillerson said in a statement that Warmbier is "en route to the United States, where he will be reunited with his family", and declined to comment further "out of respect for the privacy of Mr. Warmbier and his family".

His father, Fred Warmer said: "Our son is coming home".

North Korea has detained more USA citizens since Warmbier's sentencing, and news dropped yesterday that former National Basketball Association showman Dennis Rodman supposedly embarked upon a diplomatic voyage to Pyongyang.

North Korea has occasionally jailed US citizens on charges ranging from hostile acts to illegal entry, and released them only after visits by high-profile figures including former US President Bill Clinton.

"Apparently our message is not being conveyed properly due to the circumstances that are much bigger than us", Smith told The Associated Press before the exhibition game. At the same time, his trips have also faced ridicule and criticism from some USA politicians and activists who view them as fodder for North Korean propaganda.

Rodman tweeted that he was "headed to North Korea" on behalf of PotCoin, a website that facilitates legal cannabis transactions. "But we have issued travel warnings to Americans and suggested they not travel to North Korea for their own safety", he said.

North Korea has fired 16 missiles in 10 tests this year.

In a tearful televised confession before his Supreme Court trial, he said he wanted the banner "as a trophy" for the mother of a friend.

The purposes of Rodman's visits to North Korea have never been fully transparent.

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