A US student in North Korea has been sentenced to 15 years' hard labour, Chinese news agency Xinhua said Wednesday, after reportedly trying to steal a propaganda slogan poster from his Pyongyang hotel.

Otto Frederick Warmbier, a student at the University of Virginia, was arrested in January 2 "while perpetrating a hostile act against the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea]," Pyongyang's state-run KCNA news agency reported later that month.

Warmbier was presented to a press conference on February 29, where he confessed to the crime of stealing the slogan in an act "aimed at hurting the work ethic and the motivation of the [North] Korean people."

"I have been very impressed by the Korean government's humanitarian treatment of severe criminals like myself," he is heard saying in the video broadcast.

The 21-year-old told North Korean media that a church in the United States had asked him to steal the sign, which was then to be put on display as a kind of trophy. He said the church had promised him a used car worth 10,000 dollars in return for the item.

The institution also reportedly said it would give Warmbier's mother 200,000 dollars in the event that he did not return.

North Korea has arrested a number of foreign nationals for "hostile acts" in recent years, including individuals from the US and South Korea.

In late 2014, the country prematurely released US missionary Kenneth Bae just one year into his 15-year sentence, along with another alleged US spy, after James Clapper, US director of national intelligence, flew to Pyongyang to personally campaign for their freedom.

The sentencing comes amid increased tensions on the peninsula, after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un Tuesday vowed to conduct a nuclear warhead test and ballistic missile launches soon.

Pyongyang said on March 9 it has succeeded in making nuclear warheads small enough to be carried by its ballistic missiles, although some observers have doubted this.

North Korea has complained about the ongoing South Korean and US joint military manouevres, which it says are a rehearsal for invasion.

The United Nations Security Council this month imposed its strictest sanctions ever on North Korea, in response to the tests of a nuclear device in January and a long-range rocket in February.

Related stories

Latest news

Alphabet's self-driving car company sues Uber over alleged theft

Alphabet's self-driving car company Waymo said Thursday it was suing Uber and its subsidiary Otto for allegedly stealing its technology and infringing its patents.

US, Mexico take "important steps" even as Trump voices indifference

Top US and Mexican diplomatic and security officials met on Thursday in Mexico City, as President Donald Trump in Washington expressed ambivalence about relations with the United States' southern neighbour.

US Supreme Court's Ginsberg emphasizes value of free press

US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg expressed optimism about the political future of the United States despite the polarized and combative political atmosphere that has marked the fledgling presidency of Donald Trump.

Top Trump aide Bannon points to promises kept, media fight

Top White House strategist Steve Bannon said Thursday US President Donald Trump is keeping the promises he made during his campaign on issues from immigration to job creation.

Le Pen promises independent foreign policy, autonomous defence

Marine Le Pen promised Thursday that if elected president of France she would ensure it had a truly independent foreign policy as well as an autonomous capacity for self-defence.

Slovenia for ending lawsuits against Ljubljanska Banka

Croatia is infringing the memorandum of understanding signed with Slovenia in 2013 which they interpret differently, the Slovenian Embassy said on Thursday after a hearing at a Zagreb court in a suit which Croatia's PBZ bank filed against Slovenia's Ljubljanska Banka (LB) and Nova Ljubljanska Bank (NLB) over transferred foreign currency savings.

Marin Pucar appointed as new CEO in Podravka food concern

Marin Pucar is the new Management Board chairman of the Podravka food concern and will take the helm of the company after Zvonimir Mrsic's term expires at midnight on Thursday.

Croatian MEP says Moscow wants to influence in western Balkans

Croatian MEP Ivan Jakovcic said in an interview with the Montenegrin Pobjeda daily on Thursday that Moscow is trying to exploit the political forces in Montenegro and that Russia's meddling in Montenegro's internal affairs was "unacceptable behaviour."

New York Times launches brand campaign for 'The Truth' with Oscars ad

The New York Times is using Sunday's Academy Awards show to launch an advertising drive with an ad spot that capitalizes on President Donald Trump's confrontational relationship with the paper and other mainstream media.

Gambia charges former spy chief with murder of opposition leader

The former head of the Gambian national intelligence agency has been charged with the murder of an opposition youth leader who died in detention last year.

Dutch populist Wilders won't publicly campaign after security fiasco

The Dutch Party for Freedom (PVV) won't make public appearances in support of its election campaign after a security official assigned to protect party founder Geert Wilders was detained by police.

Peace Implementation Council Steering Board calls for defusing tensions in Bosnia

The Steering Board of the Peace Implementation Council in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) met on Thursday, expressing the international community's concern about the situation in the country and calling on local politicians to act rationally to prevent an escalation of the crisis after a motion was submitted to review an International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling in BiH's case against Serbia for genocide.