The parents of Otto Warmbier, the college student who died from injuries he sustained in a North Korean labor camp, blamed Kim Jong-un and his regime for the tragedy in a Friday statement released just one day after President Trump attempted to exonerate Kim.
“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. Kim and his evil regime are responsible for unimaginable cruelty and inhumanity. No excuses or lavish praise can change that,” the statement read.
President Trump, at the conclusion of his nuclear summit with Kim Jong-un in Hanoi on Thursday, told reporters that he took Kim “at his word” when the dictator told him he was unaware of the abuse Warmbier suffered during his 17 months in captivity.
“Some really bad things happened to Otto — some really really bad things. But [Kim] tells me that he didn’t know about it and I will take him at his word,” Trump said during the press conference.
Warmbier, a 22 year old University of Virginia student, was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor after stealing a propaganda poster from a Pyongyang hotel during a trip to North Korea in January 2016. Warmbier was returned to the U.S. in June 2017 in a coma and died days later. His exact cause of death remains unknown.
Trump added that Kim “felt really bad about” Warmbier’s apparently brutal murder but argued Kim had no reason to kill the college student.
“I really don’t think it was in his interest at all,” Trump said.
Trump’s recent comments stand in contrast to remarks he made during his 2018 State of The Union, in which he appeared to place blame for Warmbier’s death squarely on Kim’s regime.
“You are powerful witnesses to a menace that threatens our world, and your strength inspires us all,” Trump said, addressing Warmbier’s parents. “Tonight, we pledge to honor Otto’s memory with American resolve.”
“We need only look at the depraved character of the North Korean regime to understand the nature of the nuclear threat it could pose to America and our allies,” he later added.
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