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North Korea Launches Two Ballistic Missiles as 21-Year-Old American College Student Remains Captive

American student Otto Frederick Warmbier
American student Otto Frederick Warmbier, center, is escorted out of the courtroom after his trial in Pyongyang, capital of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, on March 16, 2016. 

North Korea launched two ballistic missiles from near its South Pyongan Province in the early morning of Friday, March 18, just two days after the government sentenced a 21-year-old college student to 15 years of hard labor for stealing a banner.

According to CNN, the totalitarian state fired off one medium-range missile at around 5:55 a.m. local time. A second missile was tracked by the U.S. Defense Departement shortly thereafter, but it disappeared from radar at an altitude of about 10.5 miles.

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The nerve-rattling military action comes just one week after North Korea fired two missiles toward the sea east of the Korean Peninsula.

Among the nations reacting to the reclusive country’s missile launches are China, the United States and Japan.

“Japan strongly demands North Korea to exercise self-restraint and will take all necessary measures, such as warning and surveillance activity, to be able to respond to any situations,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in a statement.

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Two days earlier, North Korea made headlines after its government sentenced University of Virginia student Otto Warmbier to 15 years of hard labor for crimes against the state.

Warmbier, who had traveled to the country’s capital of Pyongyang over the holidays through a China-based travel organization, was reportedly arrested at the airport on January 2 after he was caught on tape stealing a political banner from a hotel lobby.

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He has not been in contact with his parents in Cincinnati, Ohio, since.

In a press conference last month, the college student issued an apology that denounced his actions and claimed the United States had “manipulated” him to “commit crimes against foreign countries.”

“I entirely beg of you, the people and government of the DPRK, for your forgiveness,” he ended his tearful statement. “Please! I made the worst mistake of my life!”

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