North Korea has sentenced an American college student to 15 years’ hard labour after finding him guilty of “crimes against the state”, in a ruling that is certain to increase tensions with Washington.

Otto Warmbier, a 21-year-old economics student at the University of Virginia, was found guilty of committing “severe crimes” against the North Korean state after he was held for allegedly attempting to steal a political banner from a restricted area of the hotel where he was staying in the capital Pyongyang.

Warmbier’s conviction by the North’s supreme court, announced on Wednesday by China’s Xinhua news agency, comes soon after the UN security council agreed a new round of sanctions in response to the regime’s recent nuclear test and rocket launch.

There was no immediate confirmation of the trial, which reportedly lasted less than an hour, by the North Korean state media.

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