Otto Frederick Warmbier,
Otto Frederick Warmbier, a University of Virginia student who has been detained in North Korea since early January, attends a new conference in Pyongyang, North Korea, on 29 FebruaryKYODO Kyodo/reuters

An American student who was arrested on charges of carrying out a "hostile act" in North Korea has admitted to stealing a political banner from a hotel in Pyongyang, where he was staying during his visit to the Asian country. Otto Frederick Warmbier, 21, a student at the University of Virginia reportedly said at a press conference that he had tried to steal the banner because a church in Ohio, a secret university organisation and the CIA had asked him to do so.

Warmbier held the conference "at his own request", a North Korean official was quoted as saying. The press conference was held at the People's Palace of Culture in Pyongyang on 29 February. However, it is not clear whether the student was forced or coerced to confess to his crime, CNN reported.

"I committed the crime of taking down a political slogan from the staff holding area of the Yanggakdo International Hotel. I apologize to each and every one of the millions of the Korean people and I beg that you see how I was used and manipulated," Warmbier said.

"My reward for my crime was so much smaller than the rewards that the Z Society and the Friendship United Methodist Church get from the United States Administration," he added.

An Ohio church had allegedly promised Otto Frederick Warmbier a used car worth $10,000 (£7,200) if he was able to smuggle the propaganda sign out of the isolated country, a North Korean official said.

"I never, never should have allowed myself to be lured by the United States administration to commit a crime in this country. I wish that the United States administration never manipulate people like myself in the future to commit crimes against foreign countries," Warmbier said at the conference.

"I entirely beg you, the people and government of the DPRK, for your forgiveness. Please! I made the worst mistake of my life!"

Meanwhile, the US State Department on its website has recommended people not to travel to North Korea because of the high risk of arrests and long-term detention coupled with the country's inconsistent uses of criminal laws. Warmbier's arrest was announced by North Korea on 2 January when he was about to leave the country.