North Korea, Seoul: Yesterday, state media said, an American student sentenced 15 year’s hard labour in North Korea, who admitted stealing a propaganda banner from a hotel for subversive activities. The North’s official KCNA news agency said, the judgement was handed down on Otto Warmbier, a 21-year-old student from the University of Virginia, by North Korea’s Supreme Court.
Observers said the harsh sentence was likely a reflection of soaring military tensions on the divided Korean peninsula following the North’s nuclear test in January and long-range rocket launch a month later. The United States (US) took a leading role in securing the resulting sanctions that the UN Security Council imposed on the North earlier this month.
In recent weeks Pyongyang has maintained a daily barrage of nuclear strike threats against both Seoul and Washington, ostensibly over ongoing large-scale South Korea-US military drills that the North sees as provocative rehearsals for invasion. In announcing the jail sentence, KCNA said Warmbier had committed his offence “pursuant to the US government’s hostile policy” towards North Korea.Warmbier had initially been arrested in early January on charges of “hostile acts” against the state. KCNA said he was convicted under an article of the criminal code dealing with subversion.