Sen. John McCain slammed North Korea for its role in the death of Otto Warmbier, saying the “US cannot and should not tolerate the murder of its citizens by hostile powers.”
“Let us state the facts plainly: Otto Warmbier, an American citizen, was murdered by the Kim Jong-un regime,” the Arizona Republican said in a statement released late Monday. “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.”
Warmbier, a 22-year-old University of Virginia student who had been in a coma for more than a year, died on Monday after being released last week by the reclusive regime after serving 18 months of a 15-year prison sentence.
He had been convicted of stealing a propaganda poster.
North Korea said he contracted botulism and fell into a coma after taking a sleeping pill.
But doctors at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center who treated him after his return home in Ohio said he showed no signs of botulism and suffered extensive loss of tissue to his brain.
His family in a statement said Warmbier was “unable to speak, unable to see and unable to react to verbal commands” when he arrived home.
President Trump said on Tuesday that what happened to Warmbier is “a disgrace.”
“It’s a total disgrace what happened to Otto. It should never, ever be allowed to happen. And frankly, if he were brought home sooner, I think the results would have been a lot different,” the president said.
Trump said he spoke to Warmbier’s family.
“His family is incredible … but he should have been brought home a long time ago,” Trump said.
McCain said the regime is a threat to the region and to the United States.
The country is “destabilizing the Asia-Pacific region, and rapidly developing the technology to strike the American homeland with nuclear weapons,” McCain said in the statement. “Now it has escalated to brutalizing Americans, including three other citizens currently imprisoned in North Korea. The United States of America cannot and should not tolerate the murder of its citizens by hostile powers.”
Meanwhile, Young Pioneer Tours, the China-based group Warmbier used to travel to North Korea, said they would no longer take Americans to the country.
“The devastating loss of Otto Warmbier’s life has led us to reconsider our position on accepting American tourists,” the tour group told USA Today. “There had not been any previous detainment in North Korea that has ended with such tragic finality and we have been struggling to process the result.”