American detainee's death in North Korea baffles experts

20 June, 2017, 13:18 | Author: Oscar Goodwin

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said in a statement that "countless innocent men and women have died at the hands of the North Korean criminals, but the singular case of Otto Warmbier touches the American heart like no other".

Warmbier was arrested on January 2, 2016, for allegedly stealing a propaganda sign from a staff-only floor of the Yanggakdo International Hotel in Pyongyang with a group of other foreigners.

Otto Warmbier, the American student who was imprisoned in North Korea for more than 17 months and was returned home to OH last week, has died, his family said Monday.

The family blames North Korea for Otto's death, saying Monday, "The terrible, torturious mistreatment our son received at the hands of the North Koreans ensured that no other outcome was possible".

Warmbier's parents said since his return to OH their son had been unable to speak, see or react to verbal commands and appeared "very uncomfortable - nearly anguished". "He looked very uncomfortable - nearly anguished", they said. But "within a day the countenance of his face changed, he was at peace".

They believe respiratory arrest led to his condition, which is caused by a lack of oxygen and blood in the brain.

"This makes it extremely hard for the United States to move forward to make any overture toward North Korea absent the release of the three other prisoners", said Ralph Cossa, president of the Pacific Forum CSIS in Honolulu.

President Donald Trump called North Korea a "brutal regime" after the death was announced. He had been in a coma since March 2016.

While Trump has warned that "all options" are on the table, so far he's focused on pressuring China - North Korea's main ally and benefactor-while looking to get on the same page with a more dovish administration in South Korea.

Warmbier had suffered significant brain damage and had been in "a state of unresponsive wakefulness" since arriving at the hospital in OH after what North Korean officials said was more than a year in a coma, doctors said. They say that there was no evidence of botulism.

The University of Virginia student wept at his sentencing, saying: "I have made the worst mistake of my life". Despite befriending Kim Jong-un, he reportedly did not meet with the North Korean leader.

University of Virginia President Teresa A. Sullivan said Warmbier will be "missed by all those who knew and loved him". The North Koreans claimed that he did this as part of an initiation ritual into a secret society, under the direction of the USA government. Portman added that the Warmbiers have "had to endure more than any family should have to bear".

His parents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier, said in a statement that their son died on Monday afternoon.

Human Rights Watch said Warmbier's death "after being abused in North Korean custody" proved the regime was willing to "brutalize and kill to maintain their hold on power". As a traveler, he fell in love with the people and culture of North Korea, he says.

Warmbier's death came amid high tension over the North's recent series of missile tests, with Pentagon chief Jim Mattis describing the nuclear-armed state as "a clear and present danger to all".

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