- On Thursday, the Washington Post published a report claiming that North Korea billed the US $US2 million for Otto Warmbier’s medical care.
- The American college student fell into a coma for unknown reasons in 2016, after he was sentenced to 15 years of hard labour for allegedly stealing a propaganda poster while visiting the country.
- The Trump administration secured his release more than a year later, in June 2017. But he died six days after returning home.
- On Friday morning, Trump tweeted that “no money was paid to North Korea for Otto Warmbier” and called himself “the greatest hostage negotiator that I know of in the history of the United States.”
President Trump has shot down a report that he agreed to pay the North Korean regime $US2 million for Otto Warmbier’s medical care during the nearly year-and-a-half he was held captive in the country.
Warmbier was taken into North Korea’s custody in 2016, after he was accused of stealing a propaganda poster while visiting the country. He was sentenced to 15 years of hard labour for the alleged theft, but was later released and returned to the US a year and a half into his sentence.
On Thursday, two sources told the Washington Post about a previously unreported incident that allegedly happened after the Trump administration negotiated Warmbier’s release in June 2017.
The Post report said that before Warmbier was allowed to leave on a medical transport plane, North Korea demanded State Department official Joseph Yun sign a document agreeing to pay a $US2 million bill for Warmbier’s medical care.
Yun took the matter to then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who conveyed the issue to the president himself. The president ultimately ordered Yun to sign the document, according to the report.
The Post did not learn whether the bill was ever paid. The sources who spoke to the paper say the bill was sent to the Treasury Department and went unpaid through 2016.
On Friday, Trump responded to the report and said that the US never paid a cent to the North Koreans for Warmbier’s care.
“No money was paid to North Korea for Otto Warmbier, not two Million Dollars, not anything else. This is not the Obama Administration that paid 1.8 Billion Dollars for four hostages, or gave five terroist [sic] hostages plus, who soon went back to battle, for traitor Sgt. Bergdahl!” Trump tweeted.
He went on to describe himself as “the greatest hostage negotiator that I know of in the history of the United States.”
“20 hostages, many in impossible circumstances, have been released in last two years. No money was paid,” he said.
Warmbier fell into a coma in March 2016, on the day he was sentenced to 15 years of hard labour for allegedly stealing a poster during a trip to North Korea. The circumstances of how he fell into a coma remain a mystery. The North Korean regime was criticised for not telling US officials the truth about Warmbier’s health for more than a year.
The Trump administration secured his release in June 2017, but Warmbier died just six days after returning to his native Ohio.
- Read more:
- I’m an American who lived in North Korea for a month – and the biggest challenge I faced during my time there was psychological
- North Koreans reportedly use crystal meth as casually as cigarettes and are shipping the drug to China
- 32 photos that show what life is like in super secretive North Korea
- Go inside the North Korean ski resort that Kim Jong Un spent millions to build
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