- The Washington Times - Friday, March 1, 2019

The parents of Otto Warmbier, who died in 2017 shortly after being released from a North Korean prison, responded Friday to President Trump’s assertion that he believes dictator Kim Jong-un didn’t know anything about the brutal treatment of their son.

During a summit in Vietnam, Mr. Trump said Mr. Kim was familiar with the case but “felt badly about” the Ohio college student, who suffered brain injuries during his imprisonment for a minor offense in North Korea.

“We have been respectful during this summit process. Now we must speak out. Kim and his evil regime are responsible for the death of our son Otto,” Fred and Cindy Warmbier said in a statement to multiple news outlets. “Kim and his evil regime are responsible for unimaginable cruelty and inhumanity. No excuses or lavish praise can change that.”

Mr. Trump walked away from the summit without striking a deal to denuclearize North Korea.

During a press conference, the president said Mr. Kim told him he didn’t know what happened to Otto Warmbier.

“Those prisons are rough. And bad things happen,” Mr. Trump said.

The comments received a rebuke from congressional lawmakers who say Mr. Trump has a habit of taking the word of strongmen abroad, including Russian President Vladimir Putin’s assertion during a Finland summit that Russian actors didn’t interfere in the U.S. elections.

Mr. Trump tried to clarify his stance later Friday, arguing he’d been misinterpreted.

“Of course I hold North Korea responsible for Otto’s mistreatment and death,” he tweeted. “Most important, Otto Warmbier will not have died in vain. Otto and his family have become a tremendous symbol of strong passion and strength, which will last for many years into the future. I love Otto and think of him often!”

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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