PYONGYANG, June 23. /TASS/. Pyongyang has denied allegations of torturing US student Otto Warmbier, who was imprisoned in North Korea for more than a year and died days after returning home, the Foreign Ministry’s official spokesman said, according to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
The diplomat said Warmbier "had been provided with the necessary treatment, although North Korea had no reason at all to show mercy to such a criminal of the enemy state." He recalled that the US citizen, who had admitted his guilt, was sentenced by the court to hard labor "for subversive activities against North Korea."
Pyongyang insists that before Warmbier was sent back home his health was normal. "That’s why it remains a mystery for us why he died just a week after returning home," the diplomat said.
North Korea believes that the young man was "a victim of the policy of strategic patience" under the former US President Barack Obama, which refused to hold talks with Pyongyang and never requested his return, the statement said. Only under the current administration of Donald Trump, North Korea received several such requests and agreed to send the student back home "in consideration of his bad health," the statement said.
Warmbier arrived in North Korea from Beijing as a tourist on December 25, 2015. On the night of January 1 he entered a staff room at the hotel and pulled down a political poster from the wall. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison by North Korea’s Supreme Court. Warmbier was accused of an attempt to "undermine unity of the Korean people."
The 22-year-old student was released from North Korea and handed over to the US authorities on June 13, but he passed away in Cincinnati on June 19. It later turned out that the young man was in a coma, but reports on the circumstances were controversial. Doctors said the released detainee suffered a severe brain damage.
President Trump said on Monday North Korea’s authorities were responsible for the student’s death, stressing that his administration planned to prevent any new such incidents. The US authorities advise their citizens not to visit North Korea as tourists given the high risk.