Former President Barack Obama defended his administration on Tuesday afternoon after it was criticized for not doing enough to try and rescue American college student Otto Warmbier from North Korean detainment.
“During the course of the Obama Administration, we had no higher priority than securing the release of Americans detained overseas,” Obama spokesman Ned Price said in a statement, Deadline.com reported.
“Their tireless efforts resulted in the release of at least 10 Americans from North Korean custody during the course of the Obama administration.”
Warmbier, 22, died this week after he was sent home to the United States in a coma.
“It is painful that Mr. Warmbier was not among them, but our efforts on his behalf never ceased, even in the waning days of the administration. Our thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Warmbier’s family and all who had the blessing of knowing him,” Price, who has Obama’s National Security Counsel spokesman during Obama’s tenure in office, added in the statement.
The student’s father slammed Obama during a press conference a week ago at the time of his son’s release. In January 2016, North Korean officials arrested and sentenced Warmbier to 15 years of hard labor after accusing him of stealing a propaganda sign.
“The question is, do I think the past administration could have done more?” the elder Warmbier said at the conference, referring to Obama’s tenure. “I think the results speak for themselves.”
President Donald Trump termed Warmbier’s treatment at the hands of the North Koreans an “utter disgrace.”
In a Twitter statement, he added that the United States “again condemns the brutality of the North Korean regime as we mourn its latest victim.”
Warmbier’s funeral is slated for 9 a.m. on Thursday at his former high school near Cincinnati.
Regarding his comatose state, North Korean officials claimed he fell into a coma after contracting botulism, a rare disease cause by toxic bacteria. But U.S. doctors who examined him said he suffered severe neurological trauma and showed no signs of botulism.