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 US leader’s “lavish praise” of Kim this week following their failed 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.”
Trump sparked outrage 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.”
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.
Trump has tried to remain on speaking terms with Kim, whom he labelled in 2017 as a “madman who doesn’t mind starving or killing his people.”
After Warmbier’s death, the US government supported his parents in a lawsuit against Pyongyang.
On December 24 a US 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.
Speaking after the botched Hanoi summit, Trump still refrained from criticising 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.