Otto Warmbier family rebukes Trump praise of Kim Jong-un

by Samuel Abasi Posted on March 1st, 2019

The family of a US student who died after he was jailed in North Korea have implicitly rebuked President Donald Trump’s lauding of Kim Jong-un.

Otto Warmbier’s parents said they had been “respectful” during Mr Trump and the North Korean leader’s recent summit, but were now speaking out.

They said “no excuse or lavish praise can change” that “Kim and his evil regime” killed their son.

Their statement came after Mr Trump heaped yet more compliments on Mr Kim.

Mr Trump’s second nuclear summit with Mr Kim this week in Vietnam ended without agreement.

What did the Warmbiers say?

The family released a brief statement on Friday condemning praise for the North Korean leader, without mentioning Mr Trump by name.

“We have been respectful during this summit process. Now we must speak out,” wrote Fred and Cindy Warmbier.

“Kim and his evil regime are responsible for the death of our son Otto.

“Kim and his evil regime are responsible for unimaginable cruelty and inhumanity. No excuse or lavish praise can change that.”

Warmbier, a University of Virginia student, was jailed in Pyongyang in January 2016 during an organised tour, accused of stealing a hotel poster.

The 22-year-old was sentenced to 15 years’ hard labour, but released after 17 months.

He was returned to the US in a vegetative state in June 2017, and died days later in his hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio.

What did President Trump say?

Mr Trump told reporters in Hanoi, referring to Mr Warmbier’s death: “He [Mr Kim] tells me he didn’t know about it, and I will take him at his word.”

The president added that Mr Kim felt “very badly” about the case.

In a Fox News interview aired late on Thursday, Mr Trump said Mr Kim was “sharp as you can be” and “a real leader”.

“Some people say I shouldn’t like him,” the US president told Fox News host Sean Hannity, a vocal Trump advocate. “Why shouldn’t I like him?”

The president said he gets along “really well” with Mr Kim, describing him as “a pretty mercurial guy”.

“He’s a character. He’s a real personality. He’s very smart.”

Hannity defended the president’s decision to walk away from the negotiating table with Mr Kim. He said critics should read Mr Trump’s book The Art of the Deal to truly “understand” his tactics.

What’s the reaction?

Democrats led criticism of the president, pointing out that Mr Trump has previously sided with strongmen.

After meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki in July 2018, the US president said he believed his denial that the Kremlin sought to interfere in the 2016 US election, despite US intelligence officials concluding otherwise.

Critics also pointed out that last December, Mr Trump defended Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman despite CIA officials’ belief that the royal had ordered the gruesome murder of a US-based reporter, Jamal Khashoggi.

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