The parents of Otto Warmbier, the American college student who died after being detained for 17 months in North Korea, on Friday directly blamed leader Kim Jong Un for their son’s death a day after President Trump said he believed Kim’s account that he was not responsible.
“We have been respectful during this summit process. Now we must speak out,” Fred and Cindy Warmbier said in a statement. “Kim and his evil regime are responsible for the death of our son Otto. Kim and his evil regime are responsible for unimaginable cruelty and inhumanity. No excuse or lavish praise can change that.”
Trump said at a news conference in Hanoi, Vietnam, that Kim felt “very badly” about Otto Warmbier’s death in 2017, several days after being released in a coma from captivity in North Korea.
“He tells me that he didn’t know about it, and I will take him at his word,” Trump said, responding to a question from a Washington Post reporter.
In December, the Warmbier family won a $500-million judgment in federal court against North Korea, with a judge ruling that the Kim regime was responsible for the torture and extrajudicial killing of Otto Warmbier. Warmbier, who was 21, had been detained in Pyongyang after taking part in an organized tour of North Korea. He was accused of taking a propaganda poster.
Trump had railed against the Kim regime for its treatment of Warmbier and he invited Warmbier’s parents to attend the 2018 State of the Union address as guests of the first lady.
“I really believe something horrible happened to him, and I really don’t think the top leadership knew about it,” Trump said in Hanoi this week. “I don’t believe he would have allowed that to happen. It just wasn’t to his advantage to allow that to happen.”
During their two-day nuclear summit in Hanoi, Trump referred to Kim as “my friend” in a tweet and praised their relationship. The summit ended early, however, when talks broke down without a deal.
Nakamura writes for the Washington Post.