News came on Monday that Otto Warmbier has died. Hailing from Ohio, Warmbier was released less than a week ago after 17 months of imprisonment by North Korea’s totalitarian government. President Trump expressed condolences at a meeting of business executives. He said, "At least we got him home to be with his parents where they were so happy to see him even though he was in very tough condition." North Korea released the 21-year-old University of Virginia student after claiming that he had slipped into a coma after receiving treatment in the communist country. Doctors in the United States diagnosed him with irreparable brain damage. He did not respond to any external stimuli during his brief hospitalization in the United States.
Trump said of Warmbier’s imprisonment in North Korea, "A lot of bad things happened ... It is a brutal regime and we’ll be able to handle it.”
Offering his "deepest condolences" to the Warmbier family, Trump said "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." Trump added, "The United States once again condemns the brutality of the North Korean regime as we mourn its latest victim."
Warmbier was in China when he saw an ad offering travel arrangements to North Korea. While staying in a hotel in Pyongyang, he was imprisoned after being accused of defacing a banner praising North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un. During his show trial, Warmbier broke down in tears and begged forgiveness. He was not seen in public again until his return to the US.
Two Congressional lawmakers referred to Warmbier's death as "murder." Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said, "Let us state the facts plainly: Otto Warmbier, an American citizen, was murdered by the Kim Jong-un regime." Noting the the communist regime regularly threatens the United States and its allies with nuclear weapons, McCain said, "Now it has escalated to brutalizing Americans, including three other citizens currently imprisoned in North Korea. The United States of America cannot and should not tolerate the murder of its citizens by hostile powers.”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said North Korea is "accountable for Otto Warmbier's unjust imprisonment" and demanded the release of the three other Americans currently detained in that country.
"Otto Warmbier was such a promising young man. He was kind, generous and accomplished," said Sen. Rob Portman, R-OH. "Jane and I are lifting up the Warmbier family in our prayers at this difficult time, and we are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of this remarkable young Ohioan.”
Ohio Gov. John Kasich said "this horrendous situation further underscores the evil, oppressive nature of the North Korean regime that has such disregard for human life."
Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.