North Korea accuses Trump of exploiting Otto Warmbier's death for political gain

North Korea accused the Trump administration Thursday of exploiting the death of Otto Warmbier for political gain.

The state-run Korean Central News Agency quoted a foreign ministry spokesman as criticizing the White House for using the death of the 22-year-old Wyoming, Ohio man for propaganda purposes against North Korea.

"The fact that the U.S. is employing even a dead person for the conspiracy campaign to fuel the international atmosphere of putting pressure on (North Korea) shows how vile and inveterate the hostility of the U.S. policy-makers towards (North Korea) is," the unidentified spokesman said in a statement.

RELATED: Coroner contradicts Warmbier family's claims

Warmbier, who was vacationing in North Korea, was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in March 2016 for allegedly stealing a propaganda poster two months earlier. North Korea has said Warmbier fell into a coma that resulted from botulism and a sleeping pill.

The spokesman reiterated North Korea's denial that it tortured the American student, who was detained for more than year and died soon after his release to the U.S. while still in a coma.

"We provided him with sincere medical care on humanitarian grounds in consideration of his failing health until he returned to the U.S.," he said.

The statement expressed particular indignation that President Donald Trump had criticized North Korea's top leader.

"The fact that the old lunatic Trump and his riff-raff slandered the sacred dignity of our supreme leadership, using bogus data full of falsehood and fabrications, only serves to redouble the surging hatred of our army and people towards the U.S.," it said.

Trump referenced Warmbier's death in comments critical of North Korea during his debut speech to the U.N. General Assembly earlier this month.

Sen. Rob Portman said he didn't believe the incident had made U.S.-North Korea relations any better or worse. 

"These are people who are exploding hydrogen bombs and sending missiles over not just South Korea, but Japan, and the waters of American territory, Guam," he said. "This is just one data point."

Portman said North Korean officials showed "no interest in any humanitarian response to a college kid who should have never been detained in the first place."

"It's horrible," he said. "You can't look at it any other way. This is an evil regime. We have to know what we're dealing with."

Warmbier's parents told a Fox News TV show Tuesday that North Korea tortured and "destroyed" him. Trump tweeted afterward: "Otto was tortured beyond belief by North Korea." The tweet added to a series of recent accusations and heated exchanges between his administration and North Korean officials.

However, Hamilton County Coroner Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco said Wednesday her office was unable to determine what caused the brain damage that led to Warmbier's death, other than it stemmed from oxygen deprivation more than a year before his death.

"Could that have been torture at the time? We don't know," Sammarco said.

Warmbier's father, Fred Warmbier, told the hosts of Fox & Friends Tuesday "it looked like someone had taken pliers and tried to rearrange" Warmbier's bottom teeth. He said he noticed this while examining his son upon his return from North Korea. 

But Sammarco conflicted that account, saying she did not see "any evidence of trauma" to Warmbier's teeth.

She said her office performed an external examination, went through extensive medical imaging and conducted a post-mortem CT scan of Otto’s body.

A forensic dentist examined the images, specifically the lower teeth and mandible, Sammarco said.

“He agreed with us that there was no evidence of trauma to the lower teeth or mandible on the imaging or by physical examination,” Sammarco said.

Portman said he "stand[s] with the family."

"I'm not going to get into the details of it, except to say, as you know, I was there when he came back," Portman said. "I visited him when he was in the hospital. I had the chance to see the condition he was in. It was horrible."

Watch Sammarco's full news conference in the player below:

 
Print this article Back to Top