It's the first time that Otto Warmbier has been seen by foreign media since North Korea announced his arrest via the state news agency on January 22.

North Korean authorities claimed the University of Virginia undergraduate had been detained for "perpetrating a hostile act against the DPRK (North Korea) at the tacit connivance of the US government and under its manipulation".

While addressing the media and members of Pyongyang's diplomatic community, 21-year-old Warmbier acknowledged and apologised for the alleged crime, which involved the theft of a political slogan from a staff-only section of the hotel where he had been staying.

Previous foreign detainees in North Korea have said after their release that authorities there coached them in what to say at public appearances or put them under pressure to make apologies for their actions.

Former detainees often recant such admissions after their release.

A China-based tour operator specialising in trips to North Korea, Young Pioneer Tours, arranged Warmbier's trip to Pyongyang over New Year's Eve, and said that North Korean authorities stopped him boarding a flight back to Beijing on January 2.

Warmbier had been staying at the Yanggakdo International Hotel, a common place for tourists to stay.

Source: TVNZ