“I think without Otto, this would not have happened.”
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President Donald Trump said that his historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “would not have happened” without Otto Warmbier, the American college student who died after being released from a North Korean prison last year.
Trump’s comments came after he met with Kim in Singapore on Tuesday, a first for a U. S. president. He brought up Warmbier in response to questions criticizing his praise for Kim given North Korea’s history of human rights violations.
“Otto Warmbier is a very special person and he will be for a long time in my life. His parents are good friends of mine. I think without Otto, this would not have happened,” Trump told reporters at a news conference in Singapore following the summit, according to NBC News.
The president went on to credit Warmbier’s death with bringing attention to the dire situation in North Korea, prompting world leaders to improve relations with the isolated country.
“Something happened from that day, was a terrible thing. It was brutal,” he explained. “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. He had a lot to do with us today.”
Fred and Cindy Warmbier, Otto Warmbier’s parents, released a statement on Tuesday thanking Trump for remembering their son at the summit, which was held on the one-year anniversary of his release.
“We appreciate President Trump’s recent comments about our family. We are proud of Otto and miss him. Hopefully, something positive can come from this,” they said in the statement.
Warmbier, a 22-year-old student at the University of Virginia from Ohio, was arrested and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor after he took a poster from the Pyongyang hotel where he was staying while on a tourist trip to North Korea.
North Korean officials released Warmbier on “humanitarian grounds,” but he arrived to the U. S. in a coma. He died soon after on June 19,2017.
Doctors have been unable to determine the exact cause of Warmbier’s death, but his parents, as well as Trump, have claimed that he was tortured by the Kim regime before his release.
Aaron Credeur is a News Fellow at IJR. He has written on a variety of national topics, including the 2016 presidential election, the state of liberal… more