The parents of Otto Warmbier, a college student detained by North Korea in 2016, have called for North Korea to be listed as a state sponsor of terrorism, in their first joint interview since their son died in June this year.
Fred and Cindy Warmbier appeared on Fox and Friends on Tuesday to discuss their son’s condition upon his release from North Korea and at a time of increased tension between the U.S. and the DPRK.
“We see North Korea claiming to be a victim and that the world is picking on them and we are here to tell you North Korea is not a victim, they are terrorists,” Fred Warmbier said during the interview. “They kidnapped Otto, they tortured him, they intentionally injured him.”
“It was astounding to Cindy and I that North Korea is not listed as a state sponsor of terror. We owe it to the world to list North Korea as a state sponsor of terror,” he said, when asked by Fox’s Ainsley Earhardt if he has a message for President Donald Trump.
Trump responded to the interview following its airing, saying that Warmbier “was tortured beyond belief by North Korea.”
The President also referenced Warmbier’s death in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) last week, citing it as proof of North Korea’s barbarism.
Otto Warmbier was arrested in January last year while visiting as a tourist, allegedly for the crime of removing a propaganda poster off a wall in a restricted area of the Yanggakdo Hotel in Pyongyang.
Warmbier, then 22 years old, returned to the U.S. in a coma and with a severe brain injury and subsequently passed away on June 19 – almost a week after his release.
North Korea told U.S. officials that Warmbier had been in a coma since early 2016 after he contracted a rare case of botulism, took a sleeping pill and never woke up.
Doctors at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center announced that Warmbier was in a state of “unresponsive wakefulness” and that no signs of botulism were detected.
“We would expect a severe case of botulism to produce electrical abnormalities in nerves and muscles for a prolonged period of time, likely years,” Dr. Kanter – a physician attending to Warmbier – told NK News in June. No such abnormalities were discovered.
While the exact cause of his condition remains unknown, his parents have consistently said that Warmbier was “brutalized and terrorized” by the North Korean government.
During the interview on Tuesday, Fred Warmbier detailed other physical abnormalities displayed by Otto upon his return, describing his son as jerking violently and involuntary howling.
“He was blind, he was deaf… it looked like someone had taken a pair of pliers and rearranged his bottom teeth,” Fred Warmbier said.
“Within two days of Otto being home his fever spiked to 104 degrees, he had a large scar on his right foot…they purposefully and intentionally injured Otto,” he said.
North Korea was listed as a state sponsor of terrorism between 1988 and 2008, but was removed from the list by the Bush administration.
In order to qualify, states must be determined by the State Department to have “repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism.”
Designation on the list results in consequences such as bans on arms-related sales and exports, controls on dual-use (military and civilian) items and the prohibition of economic assistance.
It also requires that the U.S. oppose any loans to the offending country from international financial organizations such as the World Bank and lifts diplomatic immunity, allowing victims of terror attacks to file civil suit in U.S. courts.
North Korea is already subject to multilateral and unilateral sanctions that ban arms-related exports and dual-use item controls.
On August 2, Trump signed into law a bill expanding sanctions against North Korea, Iran, and Russia.
The bill stipulates that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will have to determine whether or not North Korea meets the criteria for designation as a state sponsor of terrorism within 90 days of its becoming law.
Featured image: Otto Warmbier’s Twitter
Edited by Oliver Hotham
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