The parents of Otto Warmbier, the American college student who died shortly after being released from North Korean captivity, gave passionate remarks at a U.N. symposium on North Korean human rights. (May 3)
CINCINNATI — The death of Ohio native Otto Warmbier after a 15-month detainment in North Korea was the impetus for the extraordinary nuclear summit with Kim Jong Un, President Trump said Tuesday.
After the summit, Trump defended his repeated praise of Kim despite his distressing record on human rights.
Warmbier, 22, of Wyoming, Ohio, died June 19, 2017, after he was detained by North Korea in January 2016 as he was leaving with his college tour group.
His parents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier, have remained outspoken against the communist country and have filed a lawsuit alleging the regime is responsible for the death of their son.
Trump told reporters at a news conference in Singapore on Tuesday that Kim “is very talented.” He pointed to Kim’s rise to power at a relatively young age.
Trump has appeared largely unconcerned about the implications of feting an authoritarian leader suspected of ordering the public assassination of his half-brother with a nerve agent, executing his uncle by firing squad and killing Warmbier.
But Trump said without Warmbier’s death, his meeting with Kim may not have happened. He said, “Otto did not die in vain.”
Trump said human rights did come up during the talks, albeit briefly.
Trump said he believes Kim wants to do the right thing.
Warmbier’s death under mysterious circumstances devastated a family, riveted the nation — and generated geopolitical waves that brought up the specter of a war as Trump and Kim traded insults and threats.
The Warmbiers have not publicly commented on the summit between Trump and Kim but on Saturday, Vice President Pence said he had talked to Fred Warmbier to relay a message from the president, Fox News reported.
“Today I assured his dad, as the president said two days ago, their beloved son, Otto Warmbier, will not have died in vain.”
Pence and Fred Warmbier met with North Korean defectors in South Korea ahead of the Olympic Games in February to keep international pressure on North Korea in light of what appeared to be a thaw in relations between the two Koreas.
“As these people and their lives testify, it is a regime that imprisons, and tortures, and impoverishes its citizens,” Pence said at the time.
Contributing: The Associated Press. Follow The Cincinnati Enquirer on Twitter: @Enquirer
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