By Tyla MacAllister
Former US Ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson wants answers after 22-year-old American student Otto Warmbier was returned to the United States in a coma last week after being imprisoned in North Korea for 17 months.
In a Sunday morning interview on the Cat’s Roundtable radio show, Richardson told host John Catsimatidis,”North Korea has a lot of explaining to do. Why didn’t they notify the United States? Why didn’t they notify proper international medical authorities — the Swedish government that represents us?” Richardson added,
We know very little about this leader Kim Jong Un, except he’s an unpredictable brat, and might be cruel — might be awfully cruel — if our young man was treated the way he was…The tragedy is the North Koreans did not tell the United States for a full year. They didn’t tell my delegation, a private delegation. They didn’t tell us in our meetings with the North Koreans in New York, 20 times in the last year. They didn’t tell the State Department until the last minute.
North Korean officials have claimed that Warmbier contracted botulism and fell into a coma after being given a sleeping pill. Richardson called that explanation “very flimsy.” Fred Warmbier said his son had been “brutalized and terrorized” by the North Korean government and his family does not accept their explanation of his son’s condition
The Cincinnati doctors who are treating Warmbier said he is suffering from traumatic brain injury as a result of respiratory distress that caused a prolonged lack of oxygen to the brain. “His neurological condition can best be described as a state of unresponsive wakefulness,” said Daniel Kanter, director of the neurocritical care program at the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute. Doctors believe he has been comatose since shortly after his sentencing in March 2016.
United Nations human rights investigator Tomas Ojea Quintana has also called on North Korea to “clarify the causes and circumstances” of Warmbier’s release.
In a statement issued in Geneva last Friday, Ojea Quintana, a lawyer and veteran U.N. rights expert, said “His ordeal could have been prevented had he not been denied basic entitlements when he was arrested, such as access to consular officers and representation by an independent legal counsel of his choosing.”
The escalating tensions with North Korea come after months of threats by the Kim Jung Un regime to develop a missile capable of reaching the Continental United States.
Richardson said that “we need mediators, conciliators,” which could include China.
“I hope that President Trump and the United States continue to pressure China to do more to get North Korea to start behaving, but so far they have only done so much, and it’s not enough,” Richardson stated.
“Eventually we’re going to have to make a deal, and it’s going to be very difficult because of this man Kim Jung Un,” Richardson said. “And that deal has got to involve a reduction of their missile activity – termination of that, possibly – and in exchange, China, U.S., Russia, all of us, have got to probably give them some food, some energy assistance – I think eventually diplomacy.
“But it’s not easy. There are a lot of bad options when you deal with North Korea.”
Monday afternoon: Otto Warmbier died this afternoon at 2:20 pm.
His family issued the following statement:
“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,” the family’s statement continues. “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.”
The statement also thanked “the wonderful professionals at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center who did everything they could for Otto.”
“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.”
In a statement, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, called Warmbier a “promising young man.”
“He was kind, generous and accomplished,” Portman said. “He had all the talent you could ever ask for and a bright future ahead of him. His passing today is a loss for Ohio and for all of us. Jane and I are lifting up the Warmbier family in our prayers at this difficult time, and we are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of this remarkable young Ohioan.”