WASHINGTON— Otto Warmbier’s family directly blamed Kim Jong Un and his regime for the death of their son, issuing a statement countering President Donald Trump’s defense of the North Korean dictator.
“We have been respectful during this summit process. Now we must speak out. Kim and his evil regime are responsible for the death of our son Otto,” Fred and Cindy Warmbier said in a statement released to the media on Friday. “Kim and his evil regime are responsible for unimaginable cruelty and inhumanity. No excuses or lavish praise can change that.”
Otto Warmbier, a 22-year-old American college student who went to North Korea on a tour, was arrested in January 2016 at the Pyongyang airport for having allegedly stolen a communist propaganda poster. Two months later, the regime sentenced him to 15 months of hard labor.
He was released from North Korean captivity in a comatose state in June of 2017. Staff at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center tried to resuscitate him, but the patient ultimately succumbed to a heart attack, according to doctors.
On Thursday, Trump claimed that Kim was unaware of the deterioration of the student’s health.
“[Kim] tells me he didn’t know about it,” Trump said during a press conference in Hanoi. “And I will take him at his word.”
Trump, who said he spoke to Kim about the young man’s death, said placing Warmbier in jeopardy was not within the dictator’s interests.
“I don’t believe that he would have allowed that to happen. It just wasn’t to his advantage to allow that to happen,” Trump said. “Those prisons are rough. They’re rough places and bad things happened.”
The president’s comments came at the end of a two-day summit between Trump and Kim, one that the U.S. had hoped would be a catalyst to thwart North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
It ultimately proved to be fruitless, with no agreement reached.
The president said the U.S. was unable to agree over lifting all sanctions levied against North Korea.
“For this particular visit, we decided we had to walk and we’ll see what happens,” Trump said.
Trump added that he was told North Korea will not pursue missile tests and that the relationship between the two leaders remains in good standing.
North Korea’s foreign minister, however, responded that they were only seeking partial relief.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment over the Warmbier family’s statement.