Donald Trump blames North Korea's 'brutal regime' for Otto Warmbier's death

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Washington: US President Donald Trump has denounced the death of Otto Warmbier, the student who spent more than a year imprisoned in North Korea, as the consequence of mistreatment by a “brutal regime”.

“At least he got home to his parents,” Mr Trump said on Monday during an event with technology chief executives at the White House, speaking just hours after Mr Warmbier died.



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US student dies after release from North Korea

Otto Warmbier, the American student who was released from North Korea in a coma after being imprisoned for 17 months, has died in a Cincinnati hospital.

The 22-year-old student’s death potentially escalates already high tensions between the US and North Korea over the pariah state’s push to secure a nuclear-armed missile capable of threatening the US.

Mr Warmbier’s fate has brought home the cruelty and capriciousness of the North Korean regime in a way that dozens of ballistic missile tests and nuclear explosions never did. Arrested for trying to steal a political banner, Mr Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor, a punishment that seemed grossly out of balance with the alleged crime.

“We hold North Korea accountable for Otto Warmbier’s unjust imprisonment, and demand the release of three other Americans who have been illegally detained,” US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said.

Mr Trump’s cabinet describes North Korea as the biggest threat the US faces. While officials have reacted to past provocations with alarm and warn that the US will consider “all options” in response to the North’s defiance, they have focused on non-military actions so far, such as enlisting China’s help to tighten the screws on the country.

The captivity and death of an American college student may now change the US calculus. At the least, Mr Trump’s administration may use it to further pressure China and Russia to try to rein in Pyongyang.

Mr Warmbier, who was returned to the US last week, had reportedly been in a coma since March 2016. Doctors described his condition as a state of “unresponsive wakefulness” and said he had suffered a “severe neurological injury” of unknown cause while in North Korean custody.

In a statement issued shortly after his public remarks, Mr Trump said that he extended his “deepest condolences” to the Warmbier family.

“Otto’s fate deepens my administration’s determination to prevent such tragedies from befalling innocent people at the hands of regimes that do not respect the rule of law or basic human decency,” Mr Trump said. “The United States once again condemns the brutality of the North Korean regime as we mourn its latest victim.”

Mr Warmbier, who was visiting North Korea as part of a student tour, was released 17 months after he was first detained. His return was celebrated by the Trump administration as evidence of successful diplomacy. The White House has described the President as personally involved in securing his release.

Bloomberg



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