President Trump did not mince words when he called out North Korea’s “brutal regime” Monday after the death of college student Otto Warmbier, who was released by the communist nation in a coma last week.
“Lot of bad things happened,” Trump said during a White House meeting, “but at least we got him home to be with his parents.”
“It’s a brutal regime,” Trump went on, “and we’ll be able to handle it.”
Warmbier was held by North Korea for more than 17 months before he was medically evacuated June 13. He died Monday at University of Cincinnati Medical Center.
In a statement, Warmbier’s family said “the awful torturous mistreatment our son received at the hands of the North Koreans” meant that “no other outcome was possible beyond the sad one we experienced today.”
Trump’s written statement said that “Otto’s fate deepens my Administration’s determination to prevent such tragedies from befalling innocent people at the hands of regimes that do not respect the rule of law or basic human decency.”
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who has led the charge for tougher sanctions on North Korea over its nuclear missile program, said
“Countless innocent men and women have died at the hand of the North Korean criminals,
but the singular case of Otto Warmbier touches the American heart like no other.
“While Otto Warmbier’s memory will always be a blessing to his loved ones,” Haley added, “it will also serve as an indelible reminder to us of the barbaric nature of the North Korean dictatorship.”
Warmbier had traveled to North Korea as part of a tour group when he was detained at Pyongyang’s airport in January 2016. The company that organized the trip, Young Pioneer Tours, announced after Warmbier’s death that it would no longer organize tours of North Korea for U.S. citizens.
“The assessment of risk for Americans visiting North Korea has become too high,” said the company, which has also offered tours to Iran, Iraq and former Soviet republicans and boasted of booking “budget tours to destinations your mother would rather you stayed away from.”
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Warmbier was “murdered by the [North Korean dictator] Kim Jong-un[sic] regime.”
“In the final year of his life, he lived the nightmare in which the North Korean people have been trapped for 70 years: forced labor, mass starvation, systematic cruelty, torture, and murder,” McCain said, later adding, “The United States of America cannot and should not tolerate the murder of its citizens by hostile powers.”
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said North Korea should be “universally condemned for its abhorrent behavior.” He added that Warmbier’s family “had to endure more than any family should have to bear.”
Ohio’s other senator, Democrat Sherrod Brown, said the country’s “despicable actions … must be condemned.”
“Our hearts are broken for Otto’s family and everyone who knew and loved him,” Brown added.
John Kasich, Ohio’s Governor, described Warmbier as “a young man of exceptional spirit.”
“This horrendous situation further underscores the evil, oppressive nature of the North Korean regime that has such disregard for human life,” Kasich says.