By Rebecca Tan
This marks the first time a US citizen has died from injuries sustained during captivity in North Korea.
Just days after returning home from more than a year in North Korean captivity, Otto Warmbier died today from injuries sustained during his time in Pyongyang. Now, the question is what, if anything, the US will do in response.
Warmbier’s death today marks the first time that a US citizen has died from injuries sustained under North Korea after returning to the US and there’s likely to be pressure on the Trump administration to respond.
According to preliminary reports from the Associated Press, President Trump’s immediate response to the news was, “‘Bad things’ happened in ‘brutal’ North Korea but at least American died at home with parents.”
The White House has also released an official statement from the President.
“There is nothing more tragic than for a parent to lose a child at the prime of his life,” it states. “Otto’s fate deepens my Administration’s determination to prevent such tragedies from befalling innocent people at the hands of regimes that do not respect the rule of law or basic human decency.”
In a statement announcing the news of Warmbier’s death, Warmbier’s family thanked the medical professionals at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center for tending to him.
“Unfortunately, the awful torturous mistreatment our son received at the hands of the North Koreans ensured that no other outcome was possible beyond the sad one we experienced today,” they wrote.
Warmbier had spent 17 months imprisoned in North Korea after supposedly trying to steal a propaganda poster from a hotel during a guided tour of the country. Medical professionals said during that time, he suffered extensive brain damage that left him in a comatose state.
At the time of his return last Monday, Warmbier was in a state of “unresponsive wakefulness,” and was unable to speak, see, or respond to verbal commands, said medical professionals from the University of Cincinnati Medical Center in a press conference.
It’s still not clear what caused Warmbier’s injuries. The official North Korean statement was that he had suffered a bout of severe stomach flu called botulism, though medical professionals have said there is no evidence to suggest this.
Experts say it’s not uncommon for North Korea to torture foreign prisoners like Warmbier, but it certainly is unprecedented to inflict injuries of this degree, especially to a US citizen.
“Otto was terrorized and brutalized for 18 months by a pariah regime in North Korea,” said Warmbier’s father, Fred Warmbier, in a press conference last week.
The statement from the Warmbier family is available in full here:
— Evan Millward (@EvanMillward) June 19, 2017