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President Trump credited after North Korea quietly releases Australian detainee

'He could have been Australia's version of Otto Warmbier'

Dong-A Ilbo via Getty Images/Getty Images

An Australian student detained by North Korea has been quietly set free, and experts say President Donald Trump deserves credit for his release.

What are the details?

Alek Sigley, 29, of Perth went missing in North Korea last week ahead of President Trump's historic visit to the communist country for a meeting with its dictator, Kim Jong Un. The New York Times reported Sigley was released Thursday morning and flew to Beijing, issuing a statement the next day thanking Australian and Swedish officials for orchestrating his freedom.

According to two experts, Sigley has other people to thank, namely President Trump. Former Australian MP Michael Johnson — who visited North Korea in 2006, 2007, and 2009 — says that if it weren't for Trump's visit to the rogue nation, Sigley could have met a similar fate to American college student Otto Warmbier, who died in 2017 shortly after being returned to the U.S. following detainment in North Korea.

Johnson told the Daily Mail, "Now we diplomatically and politically owe the Americans something and you can bet your bottom dollar, a favour will be asked and its delivery expected."

He went on to argue that if President Trump hadn't met with Kim, the best case scenario for Sigley would have been "another 12 months in physical detention and being roughed up."

Johnson added, "The worst case scenario, depending on what his crime was, is that he could have been Australia's version of Otto Warmbier — an utter tragedy so easily avoided."

Dr. Leonid Petrov, a senior lecturer at the International College of Management in Sydney and a specialist on North Korea agreed. He noted in the Sydney Herald that "everyone is praising the Swedes" for Sigley's release, but, "perhaps, the presidents of China, South Korea and the U.S. should be thanked for their soft intervention too."

Anything else?

When questioned by reporters, Sigley did not disclose the reason for his detainment; he just smiled and said, "I'm O.K., I'm good."

Sigley was pursuing a master's degree in Korean literature at Kim Il-sung University in Pyongyang. He went silent on social media on June 25 and, working with Australian officials, his family began seeking information about his whereabouts, the New York Times reported.

The North Korean government said nothing publicly about him, but South Korean news outlets, citing anonymous sources, reported that Sigley had been detained.

One last thing…
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