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Otto Warmbier’s parents criticize Trump and Kim

by Rachel Lynn Aldrich
Posted 3/01/19, 11:31 am

The parents of an American college student who died after being detained in North Korea released a statement Friday blaming North Korean leader Kim Jon Un and rebuking U.S. President Donald Trump. After the two leaders met this week in Hanoi, Vietnam, Trump said he takes Kim “at his word” that the leader was unaware of any mistreatment of Otto Warmbier. In the statement, Warmbier’s parents said they were “respectful” during the summit but now needed to speak out. “Kim and his evil regime are responsible for the death of our son Otto,” they wrote. “Kim and his evil regime are responsible for unimaginable cruelty and inhumanity. No excuses or lavish praise can change that.” Warmbier died in June 2017 after he was released from North Korea and returned home in a vegetative state.

“I want to make clear that we can never forget about Otto,” Republican Sen. Rob Portman, from the Warmbiers’ home state of Ohio, told The Hill. “His treatment at the hands of his captors was unforgivable and it tells us a lot about the nature of the regime.”

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Rachel Lynn Aldrich

Rachel is an assistant editor for WORLD Digital. Follow Rachel on Twitter @Rachel_Lynn_A.

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  • Ed Schick
    Posted: Fri, 03/01/2019 01:45 pm

    President Trump made a very dishonorable statement that defended Kim Jon Un and insulted the parents and memory of Otto Warmbier. Arresting a US citizen and causing brain death are hideous crimes only seen in the most brutal governments and yet President Trump believes that the leader of this government was totally unaware of the incident. The President made it sound even worse when he likened Warmbier to any other prisoner in Kim Jon Un's cruel regime. We need a better stance and better statements from our government leaders.

  • John Kloosterman
    Posted: Fri, 03/01/2019 04:12 pm

    Trump has yet to find a dictator he won't trust over his own intelligence officials.

  • Cyborg3's picture
    Posted: Sat, 03/02/2019 01:58 am

    What would you have Trump do? Condemn him? Yes better yet call him out as a ruthless dictator! Call him names and then ask him to give up his nukes! Real smart, right! 

    Trump sees the larger picture where down the road we could see a nuke hurling toward Seattle, San Francisco, San Diego, Phoenix, Denver or some other large city. Possible, Kim could blast the nuke in space above the US taking out all our computers and telecommunications sending us back into the dark ages with the EMP blast. Of course, China would egg Kim along and once we are brought to our knees then China could ascend as the sole world power.  These are possible scenarios of the future and Trump sees the threat that NK poses for us and is seeking to move Kim around on the issue of giving up his nukes.  When Kim was insisting that he first gets his goodies (removing all tariffs) before he removed any facilities and nukes, Trump wisely walked away but left the door open for future negotiations. I would bet that Kim will be at the table again shortly but this time agreeing to some of Trumps demands, though likely he will continue some games but Trump will continue in strength to move him along with the carrot and stick method.

  • John Kloosterman
    Posted: Sat, 03/02/2019 02:16 am

    Another weird thing.  People spent the whole campaign talking about how they loved how honest Trump was.  Now they love the way he lies. 

    No one forced the president to compliment Kim.  There was no threat of war if he didn't say how much he trusted Kim on Warmbier.  Multiple nations have condemned Kim for his killing of millions, yet war has not broken out.   Reagan did not hesitate to call the Soviet Empire evil, and the world was a lot closer to nuclear destruction then than it is now.

    Think through this.  Would Kim, under any circumstances, de-nuclearize while still murdering millions of his own people?  Do you think he'd expect people to trade with a human rights violator?  Does he seem like a person who'd risk getting rid of his defenses while he was busy being a genocidal tyrant?  If anything, the human rights violations should be FIRST on the table--the nukes second.  If we were talking about denuclearization we should be talking to India and Pakistan.

  • charles jandecka
    Posted: Fri, 03/01/2019 01:59 pm

    No, your son alone is repsonsible for his death; being one of many US citizens who have foolishly chosen to misbehave abroad, only to suffer dire consequences!

  • Cmakowski
    Posted: Sat, 03/02/2019 10:39 am

    I gotta agree here. Hard hard bitter pill to swallow. I can’t fault Mr. Trumps handling of this incredibly complicated issue with this evil regime, agreeing with another comment from Cyborg, and have been impressed with the amount of compassion from him regarding this tragic figure. It could be that Mr. Un didn’t know, but whether or not that is a lie, it still implicates his role in his own dictatorship and makes it even clearer the level of complication in dealing with NK. Everyone involved needs our prayers. 

  • OldMike
    Posted: Fri, 03/01/2019 02:23 pm

    Kim has maintained a regime where extreme cruelty is the norm. So in that sense Kim is responsible for Otto Warmbier’s death. But it is ludicrous to believe any leader, of any nation, receives info about or exercises personal supervision of every action taken by every unit of his government’s various branches. It’s not a stretch to say Kim didn’t know the details of Warmbier’s case. 

    As for Warmbier himself, he was visiting one of the most repressive nations on earth yet of his own volition acted like a dumb spoiled American teen vandal. That sure does not reflect well on the upbringing he received from his parents. 

    However, Mr. Jandecka, you are way too harsh on Warmbier. Warmbier behaved stupidly but that should not be cause for a death sentence anywhere on earth. 

  • RC
    Posted: Fri, 03/01/2019 03:48 pm

    Old Mike I totally agree with what you have said. Mr. Warmbier’s lack of wisdom extracted a horrible price for himself and his parents.   

  • John Kloosterman
    Posted: Fri, 03/01/2019 04:22 pm

    Warmbier's imprisonment was a global sensation, followed the world over, and also very clearly an important diplomatic issue between North Korea  and the US. He would have been an important chip in diplomatic relations.  Instead, he served as an important example.  His imprisonment and death had big implications for US-NK relations.  Any other president would have pushed for more than a "oh, I'm really sorry about that." There is no chance that Kim did not have input on his imprisonment and care (or lack therof, in this situation.) 

    Good grief, can you IMAGINE how much we would have crucified Obama if he'd just taken a dictator at his word like this?

  • news2me
    Posted: Fri, 03/01/2019 04:38 pm

    Mr. Kloosterman

    To compare Obama with Trump is wrong! I trust Trump with WAY MORE than I would ever trust Obama.

    Obama is very good at double-speak. How many prisoners did he even attempt to save? ZERO!

    Trump is not a lawyer. Trump has utilized a lot name calling in his texting as Pres. It's better that he says he believes a dictator than to call him a liar. 

  • John Kloosterman
    Posted: Sat, 03/02/2019 02:21 am

    I believe you that you trust Trump more, I'm just saying you're wrong. 

    Obama is good at Double-Speak?  Trump condemned Kim in South Korea only a few months before he praised him.  He said he didn't know about the Russia meeting before admitting he knew about the Russia meeting.  He said he had nothing to do with Jared's security clearance, and now we're finding that he did.

    More to the point, you're ACTIVELY  SAYING Trump should be a double-speaker.  You're saying it's better to lie to a dictator than insult him.  Yet you also admit Trump insults lots of people. So it seems the only people he DOESN'T feel comfortable insulting are mass murderers.

  • Wayne Asbury
    Posted: Sat, 03/02/2019 12:04 am

    I grew up in Asia and spent most of my teenage years in Communist China. I still try to follow Asian news and keep up to date on my reading concerning both China and North Korea. There haven't been that many American citizens arrested and detained like this young man was. Yes what he did was very foolish, but it is equally ridiculous to think  Chairman Kim had no idea what was going on. A foreign prisoner in an extremely closed regime like North Korea would be so conspicuous any one in a top government position would know everything that was going on with him. The only way Kim wouldn't have known would be if he did not want to know anything about this. That doesn't fit the profile of a dictator like him. As to Kim feeling bad about what happened. A man who keeps thousands of his own people in slave labor camps doesn't experience any form of pity other than self pity. 

  • Cmakowski
    Posted: Sat, 03/02/2019 10:44 am

    Thanks for needed perspective. 

  •  West Coast Gramma's picture
    West Coast Gramma
    Posted: Sat, 03/02/2019 04:16 pm

    A feet-on-the-ground perspective: thanks!

  •  West Coast Gramma's picture
    West Coast Gramma
    Posted: Sat, 03/02/2019 04:19 pm

    Re John Kloosterman: You make excellent points in all your statements. I think this incident shows how much the power of the US is declining. The president's remarks and the defense made of them here resemble the weakness of appeasement. It's giving N Korea the upper hand at the  bargaining table.

  • Kris
    Posted: Mon, 03/04/2019 01:10 pm

    I agree that Kim knew about Warmbier's condition, that he had been in a coma for over a year.  We don't know what caused it. Perhaps the North Koreans didn't either.  There was no sign of torture or damage to his skull.  I suspect he was in a coma, due to whatever cause, suffered brain damage, and later became more or less conscious.  So the North Korean's sent him back to the US hoping he would heal and be forgotten.  They didn't want him to die in their custody.  US doctors could not save him and he died less than a week later. His parents did not want an autopsy.  It is sad that this young man died, but I don't think we know definitively what happened to him. From the UK Guardian:

    ...the 22-year-old university student was medically evacuated from North Korea on 13 June and flown to the US where he died on 19 June.

    No evidence has emerged to support North Korea’s claim that Warmbier fell into a coma after contracting botulism and taking a sleeping pill. Doctors in the US said his condition was probably caused by a heart attack that cut the blood supply to his brain.

    Nor was there evidence that Warmbier had been beaten. His parents did not cite a specific cause of death but blamed “awful, torturous mistreatment” by North Korea.

    Warmbier had arrived back in the US in a state of “unresponsive wakefulness”, having suffered a “severe neurological injury” of unknown cause. His eyes opened and blinked but he showed no indication that he understood verbal commands or was aware of his surroundings. Warmbier’s parents said their son appeared anguished when he arrived home but died “at peace”.

    Any number of factors could be behind the deterioration in Warmbier’s health during his time in prison: poor hygienic conditions, malnutrition or lack of proper medical care may have been responsible for a coma that North Korean doctors were unable to treat.

    In North Korea’s first public comment since Warmbier’s death, a spokesman for the foreign ministry said on 23 June that claims that Warmbier was beaten and tortured in captivity were “groundless”.     Well, of course they said that.  But no one has offered evidence to the contrary. If President Trump knows more, he is not saying, nor is anyone else.  So I think accusations that Pres. Trump is dishonorable for not blaming Kim for Warmbier's death publicly are unfounded.  Or premature.