The parents of an American university student tortured and left in a coma in North Korea strongly rebuked President Donald Trump Friday for accepting Kim Jong Un’s claim that he did not know about the case.
Fred and Cindy Warmbier, parents of 22-year-old Otto Warmbier – who died days after being sent back to the United States from North Korea in a coma in 2017 – condemned the U.S. leader’s “lavish praise” of Kim this week following their summit in Hanoi.
“We have been respectful during this summit process. Now we must speak out,” they 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,” they said.
“No excuses or lavish praise can change that.”
Firestorm Over Trump Praise
Trump sparked a firestorm in Washington when he told reporters at the summit’s conclusion that he believed Kim’s claim that he didn’t know what happened to Warmbier during his detention.
“He knew the case very well, but he knew it later,” Trump said.
Kim “tells me that he didn’t know about it, and I will take him at his word.”
Trump says he believes that his 'friend' Kim Jong-un didn't know about American student Otto Warmbier's death after being tortured in North Korea pic.twitter.com/0LFZjKP3Dd
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) March 1, 2019
Washington politicians quickly reminded the president that in 2017 he took credit for obtaining Warmbier’s release. “Otto was tortured beyond belief by North Korea,” Trump said at the time.
“I do not see the leader of North Korea as somebody who’s a friend. We know what happened to Otto, we know what this country has done,” said House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy.
“I support the president’s effort to denuclearize them, but I do not have a misbelief of who this leader is,” he said, speaking of Kim.
The White House made no comment about the statement from Warmbier’s parents, who were invited to attend Trump’s State of the Union address in Congress in January 2018 and were hailed as “incredible people” in his speech.
In a tweet earlier Friday, before the Warmbier statement, Trump sought to put a good spin on his abortive nuclear talks with Kim.
“Great to be back from Vietnam, an amazing place. We had very substantive negotiations with Kim Jong Un – we know what they want and they know what we must have. Relationship very good, let’s see what happens!”
Trump has tried to remain on speaking terms with Kim, whom he labeled in 2017 as a “madman who doesn’t mind starving or killing his people.”
After Warmbier’s death, the U.S. government supported his parents in a lawsuit against Pyongyang.
On December 24 a U.S. judge ordered North Korea to pay $501 million over Warmbier’s death from apparent torture.
A judge said that Warmbier had been used “as a pawn in that totalitarian state’s global shenanigans and face-off with the United States.”
Trump spoke about Kim and Warmbier at the close of a summit in Vietnam to discuss eliminating North Korea’s nuclear weapons that was abruptly cut short.
Trump said the two leaders couldn’t agree on basic issues in their second meeting, but refrained from criticizing Kim.
“We just like each other.. there’s a warmth that we have and I hope that stays, I think it will,” Trump said.
That drew severe criticism back in Washington.
Senate Democratic chief Chuck Schumer accused Trump of “once again simply deciding to take a cruel and brutal dictator at his word.”
“He owes Otto Warmbier’s parents an apology. Now,” Schumer said.
More on the Subject
The U.S.-North Korea nuclear summit in Hanoi ended abruptly without a deal Thursday, with President Donald Trump saying he had decided to “walk” in the face of Kim Jong Un’s demands to drop sanctions.
The much-anticipated second meeting between the two leaders was supposed to build on their historic first summit in Singapore, but they failed to sign a joint statement as initially scheduled and the talks ended in deadlock.
“Sometimes you have to walk and this was just one of those times,” an unusually downbeat Trump told reporters.