North Korea denies torturing US student

Otto Warmbier (22) died days after being released in a coma

North Korea denies torturing US student

American student Otto Warmbier cries while speaking to reporters in Pyongyang, North Korea. Picture by: AP/Press Association Images

North Korea has denied torturing a US student who was detained for more than a year and died days after being released in a coma.

The response, published by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), was Pyongyang's first reaction to the death of Otto Warmbier.

The authoritarian communist regime released the 22-year-old last week for what it described as humanitarian reasons.

The University of Virginia student was medically evacuated from the country, and died on Monday in a US hospital.

He is believed to have fallen into a coma soon after being jailed in March 2016.

His parents have condemned the "awful torturous mistreatment" their son received at the hands of the North Koreans.

But according to KCNA, a spokesman of the North's National Reconciliation Council said: "Our relevant agencies treat all criminals who committed crimes against (our) republic strictly based on domestic law and international standards, and Warmbier was no different."

The agency accused Seoul of tarnishing Pyongyang's image with its "slanderous talk about cruel treatment and torture" while having no knowledge of the "humanitarian" treatment Mr Warmbier received in the North.

No further details were provided on his treatment while in custody or why he fell into a coma.

US doctors said he had suffered a severe neurological injury from an unknown cause.

Mr Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years in prison with hard labour last year after he admitted trying to steal a propaganda sign from the staff-only area of a hotel he was staying at.

Following the news of Mr Warmbier's death, US President Donald Trump said that "bad things" happened in "brutal" North Korea.

He added: "Otto's fate deepens my administration's determination to prevent such tragedies from befalling innocent people at the hands of regimes that do not respect the rule of law or basic human decency.

"The United States once again condemns the brutality of the North Korean regime as we mourn its latest victim."

Three Americans remain in custody in the country.