WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said Tuesday that the death of 22-year-old Otto Warmbier after his lengthy detention in North Korea was a “total disgrace,” and said if the college student had been returned home to the U.S. earlier, “I think the result would have been a lot different.”
Trump said he had spoken with Warmbier’s parents, telling reporters in the Oval Office that it was “incredible what they’ve gone through.” Seated next to the president of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, Trump said Warmbier “should have been brought home a long time ago.”
“It’s a total disgrace what happened to Otto. That should never ever be allowed to happen,” Trump said. “And frankly if he were brought home sooner I think the result would have been a lot different.”
The Ohio college student died Monday at a Cincinnati hospital, nearly a week after his return to the United States after being held in North Korea for more than 17 months. Warmbier’s parents have not cited a specific cause of death, but pointed to “awful, torturous mistreatment” by North Korea.
Doctors have described Warmbier’s condition as a state of “unresponsive wakefulness” and said he suffered a “severe neurological injury” of unknown cause.
The University of Virginia student was accused of trying to steal a propaganda banner while visiting with a tour group and was convicted of subversion. He was sentenced in March 2016 to 15 years in prison with hard labor.