North Korea Had Demanded That the United States Pay for Holding Hostage Warmbier

April 26, 2019 Updated: April 26, 2019

Prior to the recent 2019 Vietnam Summit and the historic 2018 Singapore Summit concerning denuclearization on the Korean peninsula, held between North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un and President Donald Trump, a maximum pressure campaign took place in 2017, accompanied by the rhetoric of “fire and fury” that ultimately resulted in the easing of tensions.

Throughout those tense times, the abuses in human rights by the North Korean regime were openly on display with the case of the detention and death of an American citizen by name of Otto Warmbier. As a University of Virginia student on a trip to Pyongyang in 2016, he was imprisoned and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for a “hostile act against the state,” according to North Korea. The actual alleged crime was that he tried to steal a propaganda poster from his hotel. During his detention, Warmbier fell into a coma due to unknown reasons and remained in that condition for 17 months, passing away a week after his return to the United States in June 2017.

North Korea’s horrific human rights abuses were condemned before a global audience at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2017 by President Trump, as well as during his visit to Seoul, South Korea in November 2017, and then again with the Warbmier family present during his January 2018 State of the Union address. Later that year, a federal district court in Washington ordered the DPRK government to pay $501 million in damages to the Warmbier family for the torture and death of their son. North Korea has denied any wrongdoing and refuses to pay, insisting that Warmbier was treated in a “humanitarian” way.

But the Washington Post reported on April 25 that during Warmbier’s detention in 2017, North Korea had, in fact, demanded $2 million from the United States for the hospital care of Otto Warmbier while he was unconscious and unable to perform the hard labor he was sentenced to do. The regime had insisted that a U.S. official sign a pledge to pay the invoice before Warmbier was sent home. The existence of such demands were not previously disclosed by neither the DPRK nor U.S. officials.

Fox News reported that then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the State Department’s specialist on North Korea, Joseph Yun, were ordered by the President to “completely do whatever you can to get Otto back.” They signed an agreement to pay the medical bill but the money was never paid to North Korea. The $2 million bill was sent to the Treasury Department, where it remained unpaid.

President Trump refuted any speculation about ransom payments today, asserting that the United States did not pay any money to North Korea for the release of Otto Warmbier in 2017. Donald Trump also criticized these speculations, claiming that he does not operate as his predecessor Barack Obama, who paid ransom to release hostages from Iran.

The release of the information came as North Korea’s Communist Party Chairman Kim Jong-Un met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Vladivostok, Russia, on Thursday.

These revelations though have naturally bothered many experts on the communist regime, including Greg Scarlatoiu, Executive director of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, who said, “This is outrageous. They killed a perfectly healthy and happy college student and then had the audacity to expect the U.S. government to pay for his care,” according to the Washington Post.

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