Donald Trump has said that his historic summit with Kim Jong Un would not have happened with Otto Warmbier, the US university student who was detained and tortured in North Korea for 17 months.
In a solo press conference following his meeting with the North Korean leader, Trump said:
“Otto Warmbier is a very special person and he will be for a very long time in my life. His parents are good friends of mine. I think without Otto, this would not have happened.
“Something happened from that day — it was a terrible thing, it was brutal, but a lot of people started to focus on what was going on, including North Korea.
“I really think that Otto is someone who did not die in vain. I told this to his parents: A special young man, and I have to say: Special parents, special people.
“Otto did not die in vain. He had a lot to do with us being here today.”
Trump’s comments came in response to a reporter’s asking why he was “so comfortable” calling Kim “very talented.” See the full exchange below — Trump’s remarks on Warmbier come around the 0:40 mark in the video below.
Otto Warmbier was detained in North Korea in January 2016 after allegedly stealing a propaganda poster at his hotel during his five-day tour of the country.
He served 527 days of a 15-year sentence of hard labor, during which US officials staged a surprise trip to Pyongyang last September and demanded that Pyongyang send him home on “humanitarian grounds.”
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters at the time that “bringing Otto home was a big priority for the president.”
Trump also paid tribute to Warmbier and his parents at his 2018 State of the Union address.
Warmbier was released by the North Korean regime on June 12, 2017, and died one week after aged 22.
It’s not unclear what happened during Warmbier’s year in North Korean custody. According to doctors who examined him, Warmbier had severed a severe neurological injury that most likely happened between March and April 2016.
His parents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier, also said their son was rendered “blind” and “deaf,” and that “it looked like someone had taken a pliers and rearranged his bottom teeth.” The Warmbier parents added that North Korea was “not a victim — they are terrorists.”