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Murder in Pyongyang

Christopher Burgess Blog, National Security Issues

The world collectively learned of the passing of Otto Warmbier, the U.S. student who was held in North Korea.

Let me correct this, Otto Warmbier who was murdered by the Kim Jung Un regime.

Warmbier had the audacity to lift a poster off a wall (think souvenir) and was arrested for taking the wall poster. Warmbier was then tried by the regime and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.

He never got the chance to serve his sentence as he suffered a traumatic event which caused neurologic failure and placed him in a coma.

The North Korean regime not only caused the death of Warmbier, they demonstrated their full measure of callousness by keeping his medical condition a secret from Warmbier’s parents and the United States government, who had repeatedly inquired and requested access to Warmbier by the Swedish diplomats who handle US interests in North Korea. 

Warmbier’s family released the following statement the afternoon of 19 January.

“It is our sad duty to report that our son, Otto Warmbier, has completed his journey home.  Surrounded by his loving family, Otto died today at 2:20 p.m.

It would be easy at a moment like this to focus on all that we lost – future time that won’t be spent with a warm, engaging, brilliant young man whose curiosity and enthusiasm for life knew no bounds. But we choose to focus on the time we were given to be with this remarkable person.

You can tell from the outpouring of emotion from the communities that he touched – Wyoming, Ohio and the University of Virginia to name just two – that the love for Otto went well beyond his immediate family.

We would like to thank the wonderful professionals at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center who did everything they could for Otto. 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.

When Otto returned to Cincinnati late on June 13th he was unable to speak, unable to see and unable to react to verbal commands. He looked very uncomfortable – almost anguished.  Although we would never hear his voice again, within a day the countenance of his face changed – he was at peace.  He was home and we believe he could sense that.

We thank everyone around the world who has kept him and our family in their thoughts and prayers. We are at peace and at home too.”

 

A tragedy by any measure.

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) issued a statement today, which I stand behind 100%,  “Let us state the facts plainly: Otto Warmbier, an American citizen, was murdered by the Kim Jong-un regime. In the final year of his life, he lived the nightmare in which the North Korean people have been trapped for 70 years: forced labor, mass starvation, systematic cruelty, torture, and murder.”

Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson commented, “Today we received with deep sadness the news that Otto Warmbier has passed away.” Tillerson continued, “On behalf of the entire State Department and the United States government, I extend my condolences to the Warmbier family, and offer my prayers as they enter a time of grief no parent should ever know.” He concluded, “We hold North Korea accountable for Otto Warmbier’s unjust imprisonment, and demand the release of three other Americans who have been illegally detained.”

Separately Tillerson commented that putting a travel ban on US citizen travel to North Korea may be in order. Again, I agree 100%, with the continued illegal detention of US citizens, it is totally appropriate to put in place a travel ban to North Korea.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Warmbier family at this time of sorrow.

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