Mourners celebrate life of Otto Warmbier, student detained in North Korea

"Surrounded by his loving family, Otto died at 2:20pm", Warmbier's parents said in a statement Monday, according to an Ohio-based paper.

The American college student, detained for a almost a year and a half in a North Korea prison, died soon after being returned to his family in vegetative state.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the US will "hold North Korea accountable" for Warmbier's "unjust imprisonment", and is also demanding the release of three other Americans who are being detained.

Mr Warmbier was traveling in North Korea with a tour group. But he was arrested in Pyongyang in January 2016 and, as we have reported, was accused of trying to steal a propaganda poster.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer did not have a specific answer when asked at Tuesday's press briefing how the administration would respond to Warmbier's death.

A long line of mourners formed in the early hours of the morning for Warmbier's funeral, held at the high school from which he graduated in 2013.

The exact cause of Mr Warmbier's death is unclear. The attendees included Ambassador Joseph Yun, the USA special envoy who travelled to Pyongyang to bring Warmbier back.

Speaking at the funeral, Ohio Senator Rob Portman said: "I think we need to tighten the sanctions, I think we need to focus more on the human rights abuses, I think we need to do more in terms of putting pressure on North Korea".

Beerck described Warmbier as a "goofy kid" who would "drop anything to help his friends".

Portman spoke Thursday outside Wyoming High School in Warmbier's hometown, where hundreds of people lined up early for a public memorial service.

Warmbier's former soccer coach, Steve Thomas, said the Jewish student came from a religious family and was involved in mission trips and a birthright trip to Israel.

"I wish there was a way to know you're in the good old days before you've actually left them", it said. "He wasn't big on doing things because he was supposed to do it. This is the end of one great show, but just the beginning to hundreds of new spinoffs".

Cynthia Meis, his college admissions counselor from high school, said she admires the strength displayed by Warmbier's parents in the face of such loss and the glare of worldwide media attention.

"It was not just my life he made more colorful, but everyone else's", she said.

The United States, South Korea and others often accuse North Korea of using foreign detainees to wrest diplomatic concessions.

The US State Department and Congress are contemplating a blanket ban on American travel to North Korea.

  • Rogelio Becker