North Korea says it has released Canadian detainee

North Korea prisoner Otto Warmbier

Mr Lim was convicted and sentenced in 2015 on charges of trying to use religion to destroy the North Korean system and helping United States and South Korean authorities lure and abduct North Korean citizens.

News of the release of 62-year-old Hyeon Soo Lim - also known as Rim Hyon Su -comes just hours after a high-level Canadian delegation, led by the prime minister's national security adviser, had arrived in the country in the hope of intervening in his case.

A senior Canadian official said their trip was exclusively linked to Lim's condition and was not related to the increasing global tensions with the state.

Lim's family has become more concerned for his welfare since the June death of American student Otto Warmbier who had been held in North Korea for 17 months.

Over the weekend, a Canadian doctor and officials were dispatched to Pyongyang following reports that Lim had suffered "dramatic" weight loss.

His release came one day after a special envoy of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrived in the North.

Mr Lim has complained of stomach pain and high blood pressure in letters home to Mississauga, Ontario.

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Lim was "released on sick bail" by North Korea's top court for "humanitarian" reasons, KCNA said.

Lim, who served in one of the largest churches in Canada, had been sentenced to hard labour for life in December 2015 after North Korea accused him of attempting to overthrow the regime.

North Korea is still holding three Americans.

He then added, Canada would "do whatever we can to ameliorate and defuse the situation with North Korea".

He has visited the country more than 100 times for humanitarian activities since 1997.

North Korea, which zealously tries to shield its citizens from outside influences, has detained several foreign missionaries in recent years, calling them spies or agents of subversive ideas. In 2016, he told the US network CNN that he had been digging holes for 8 hours a day.

"This is a truly joyous occasion", Suzanne Scholte, the chair of the North Korea Freedom Coalition, told the International Christian Concern, a human rights organization focusing on persecuted Christians. President Donald Trump warnedTuesday that North Korea's threats will be met with "fire and fury and, frankly, power the likes of which this world has never seen before".

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