President Donald Trump suggested Tuesday that if North Korea had released the U.S. college student Otto Warmbier earlier, he might still be alive.
Warmbier was arrested last year for alleged hostile acts against the state — attempting to steal a propaganda poster — and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for his crimes. Warmbier returned home last week in a coma, and died Monday.
“It’s a disgrace what happened to Otto … It should never, ever be, allowed to happen,” Trump said in the Oval Office Tuesday, adding, “Frankly, if he were brought home sooner, I think the results would have been a lot different.”
“He should have been brought home that same day,” the president added. “The results would have been a lot different. He should have been brought home a long time ago.”
The family’s public statements indicate that they feel the previous administration could have and should have done more for their son, who chose to visit North Korea despite warnings from the Department of State instructing American citizens to avoid travel to North Korea.
“When Otto was first taken, we were advised by the past administration to take a low profile while they worked to obtain his release. We did so, without result,” Fred Warmbier, Otto’s father, said in a press conference earlier in June, explaining that he and his wife were initially instructed to keep silent to avoid agitating the North Koreans. “Earlier this year, Cindy and I decided the time for strategic patience was over,” he said, making a reference to the Obama administration’s failed North Korea policy.
The young student’s father spoke highly of the Trump administration for taking “aggressive” action to bring his son home. “It is my understanding that Ambassador Joseph Yun and his team, at the direction of the president, aggressively pursued resolution of the situation. They have our thanks for bringing Otto home,” he explained.
“The question is: do I think the past administration could have done more?” Warmbier’s father asked. “I think the results speak for themselves.”
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