Trump Blames ‘North Korea’ for Otto Warmbier’s Murder Without Naming Kim Jong-Un

(INSET: Otto Warmbier) US President Donald Trump (R) and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un sit for a dinner at the Sofitel Legend Metropole hotel in Hanoi on February 27, 2019. (Photo by Saul LOEB / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty, Jon Chol Jin/AP
JOSHUA CAPLAN

President Donald Trump attempted to clarify his remarks regarding Kim Jong-Un’s culpability in the death of Otto Warmbier after saying this week that he believes the North Korean dictator was unaware of the American student’s treatment while imprisoned.

While Kim was not mentioned by name, the president tweeted Friday that his previous statements on Warmbier were “misinterpreted” and that he holds North Korea “responsible” for his “torture and blame.”

“I never like being misinterpreted, but especially when it comes to Otto Warmbier and his great family. Remember, I got Otto out along with three others. The previous Administration did nothing, and he was taken on their watch. Of course I hold North Korea responsible,” President Trump wrote of Otto’s death. “Most important, Otto Warmbier will not have died in vain. Otto and his family have become a tremendous symbol of strong passion and strength, which will last for many years into the future.”

He concluded by saying that he loves Otto and thinks of him often.

The statement comes after Warmbier’s parents issued a statement slamming Kim and his “evil regime” for the treatment of their son, who as a University of Virginia student visited North Korea with a tour group in 2017, and was detained. A North Korean court sentenced him to 15 years of hard labor for his alleged offenses.

“We have been respectful during this summit process. Now we must speak out,” Fred and Cindy Warmbier said. “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.”

In a press conference following a nuclear summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, President Trump said Thursday he takes Kim “at his word” that the dictator was unaware of the alleged mistreatment of Otto. Kim “tells me he didn’t know about it, and I will take him at his word,” the president told reporters.

“It just wasn’t to his advantage to allow that to happen. Prisons are rough, they’re rough places, and bad things happened,” he added.

Further President Trump said Kim “felt very badly about it”, before adding that “He knew the case very well, but he knew it later. In those prisons, those camps, you have a lot of people.”

Pyongyang officials returned Otto to the U.S. in a coma in June 2017, and he passed away days later in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Last year, U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell, citing North Korea’s “barbaric mistreatment” of Warmbier, awarded his parents over $500 million in a wrongful death lawsuit.

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