North Korea denies torturing U.S. student Warmbier

Cheryl Sanders
June 24, 2017

The article published by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) was Pyongyang's first reaction to the death of Otto Warmbier.

An estimated 2,500 mourners gathered Thursday to remember Otto Warmbier, the American college student who died this week after being held for almost a year-and-a-half in a North Korean prison.

KCNA said the North dealt with Warmbier according to domestic law and global standards.

Warmbier, whose parents say has been in a coma while serving a 15-year prison term in North Korea, was released and returned to the United States Tuesday, June 13, 2017, as the Trump administration revealed a rare exchange with the reclusive country. He was sentenced to 15 years of hard labour for trying to steal an item bearing a propaganda slogan from his hotel, North Korean state media said.He was sent home last week suffering from brain damage and in what US doctors called a state of unresponsive wakefulness.

Warmbier was freed after the U.S. State Department's special envoy on North Korea, Joseph Yun, traveled to Pyongyang and demanded the student's release on humanitarian grounds, capping a flurry of diplomatic contacts, a U.S. official has said.

The KCNA news agency said the North dealt with him according to its domestic laws and global standards.

Mr Warmbier was accused of trying to steal a propaganda banner while visiting North Korea in 2015 and was later convicted of subversion.

Pyongyang's chilling threat comes weeks after Pope Francis warned, the world would be destroyed if North Korea and the USA went to war.

His language was echoed by South Korean President Moon Jae-In, who said in an interview ahead of a White House visit next week that North Korea bears responsibility for the student's death.

It was soon revealed, however, that he was in a coma and in very poor health - a situation the North Koreans reportedly told his family was due to botulism and having taken a sleeping pill.

Warmbier returned to the US on June 13, unresponsive, in a coma.

While Pyongyang accepted US demands for Warmbier's return on humanitarian grounds, Washington "totally distorted this truth and dared to clamor about "retaliation" and "pressure" on "dignified" North Korea, the spokesman told KCNA.

"Why the US government which claims to care about the welfare of its citizens had not even once made an official request for the release of Warmbier on humanitarian basis during the Obama administration?" the statement said.

Warmbier died Monday, just days after he returned to the United States, and his funeral was held in his hometown in Ohio Thursday.

President Donald Trump said he was running out of patience with the North Korean regime.

He died on Monday at a Cincinnati hospital and was buried on Thursday.

A North Korean state newspaper on Thursday called President Trump a "psychopath" and said that he was weighing a pre-emptive strike against the country to divert attention from political turmoil in the U.S., The Washington Post reported.

This death and the public condemnation by the Warmbier family on television keeps the regime's behaviour squarely in front of the American public, our correspondent adds.

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