WASHINGTON – Sen. John McCain said Tuesday that U.S. citizens who are “stupid” enough to still want to travel to North Korea should be required to sign a waiver absolving the U.S. government of any blame should they be harmed while there.
McCain, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said North Korea “murdered” Otto Warmbier, the 22-year-old U.S. college student who died just days after North Korea released him from detention in a coma. He had arrived in Ohio on June 13 after being held for more than 17 months.
“They just murdered him,” McCain said.
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.
“There should at least be a form for them to fill out that says, ‘If I go to North Korea, I understand I am taking great risk and I do not hold the American government responsible. Now I hope the American government will help, etc., etc. But I realize what has happened to previous American citizens, including their deaths,’” McCain, Republican from Arizona, said in a brief interview.
“I would have that first because if people are that stupid that they still want to go to that country then at least they assume the responsibility for their welfare,” McCain said.
Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the Republican chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said the U.S. should think about banning U.S. citizens from visiting North Korea.
“I think we should strongly consider it,” Corker said. “It puts us in a really precarious situation when Americans are detained there.”
The United States, South Korea and others have accused North Korea of using foreign detainees has hostages to secure diplomatic concessions. Three U.S. citizens remain in custody in the North.
“It’s unsafe,” Corker said, adding that the “trumped up charges” like those Warmbier was accused of “can continue to happen.”