President Donald Trump’s belief that North Korea Leader Kim Jong Un did not know about American hostage Otto Warmbier’s torture and imprisonment is at odds with court testimony, the Washington Examiner is reporting.
After meeting with Kim in Vietnam this week, Trump said: “He felt badly about it. He tells me that he didn’t know about it and I will take him at his word.”
Warmbier was arrested in North Korea in 2016 for allegedly trying to steal a propaganda poster. The Examiner said he was tortured and suffered a traumatic brain injury. He was returned to the U.S. in a comatose state in June 2017 and died that month.
A U.S. District Court judge ordered the North Korean government to pay $501 million to Warmbier’s family in December 2018. The Examiner has obtained a transcript of a court hearing held in private on Dec. 19, 2018.
David Hawk, a consultant for the Committee on North Korean Human Rights, noted: “North Korea seized and maintained custody of Otto in order to further its policy goals.” And he noted that “hostage-taking is a very well-honed craft and took of North Korea’s diplomacy.”
Sung-Yoon Lee, a Korea specialist at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, said that Warmbier’s detention was not random, but rather a strategic decision by the North Korean government.
And Warmbier’s father, Fred, said the State Department believed the North Korean government was using Otto.