President Donald Trump claimed that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un was unaware of how Otto Warmbier was treated while he was held in a North Korean prison. The president made the comment at a press conference on Thursday in Hanoi, Vietnam following the conclusion of his talks with Kim.
Warmbier was arrested in 2016 for allegedly attempting to steal a propaganda poster in North Korea. For his crimes against the state, the University of Virginia student was convicted and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor. He returned home in June, 2017 in a coma, and died a week later.
“Thank you, Mr. President. You have a personal relationship and I believe Vice President Pence does with the family of Otto Warmbier,” a reporter began. “Have you in Singapore or here confronted Kim Jong Un about Otto Warmbier’s death? Asked him to take responsibility and what he says to you and why do you call him your friend?”
“I have and we’ve talked about and I really don’t think it was in his interest at all. I know the Warmbier family very well, I think they are an incredible family,” Trump responded. “What happened is horrible. I really believe something very bad happened to him and I don’t think that the top leadership knew about it.” (RELATED: Here Are The 17 Prisoners Trump Has Freed Since He Took Office)
The president continued:
When they had to send him home, by the way, I got the prisoners back, I got the hostages back and Otto was one of the hostages but Otto came back in a shape that was not even to be talked about. I find it — I thought it was horrible. Now, the others came back extremely healthy, but Otto came back in a condition that was just terrible. And I did speak about it and I don’t believe that he would have allowed that to happen, just wasn’t to his advantage to allow that to happen. Those prisons are rough, they’re rough places and bad things happened, but I really don’t believe that he was — I don’t believe he knew about it.
As Trump mentioned, he secured the release of Kim Dong-Chul, Kim Hak-Song, and Kim Sang-Duk back in May.
“Did he say — did he tell you that he did not — did Kim Jong Un tell you —,” the reporter followed up.
“He felt badly about it,” Trump answered. “I did speak to him. He felt very badly. He knew the case very well but he knew it later, and you know, you’ve got a lot of people, a big country, a lot of people and in those prisons and those camps you have a lot of people and some really bad things happened to Otto, some really, really bad things. But he tells me, he tells me that he didn’t know about it and I will take him at his word.”