What did North Korea do to Otto Warmbier? How come the 22 year old American student returned to the US with no visible signs of trauma but completely unresponsive? Was he medicated to death? Was it pneumonia that spread to the brain? Or some other sophisticated form of torture which kills without an imprint by shutting off blood flow to the brain for long periods?
Does the White House know?
“We would not share them (details) at this point”, White House said but did not confirm or deny that North Korea tortured Warmbier or whether they know something that we don’t.
Otto Warmbier, 22, was medically evacuated from his 17-month detention in North Korea last week. He came back in a coma with severe brain damage, could not speak or move voluntarily and died on Monday in his hometown Ohio.
Warmbier’s family objected to an autopsy, leaving the unthinkable in the realm of mystery for now.
As pressure mounts for a tough US response, president Trump has condemned North Korea for its “brutality,” but did not announce fresh sanctions. “At least we got him home,” Trump said, taking credit for Warmbier’s return to the US, claiming that more could have been done had Warmbier come back earlier, yet another low blow against former President Obama and promised that “we’ll be able to handle” the North Korean regime.
With news of Warmbier’s death gripping the US, North Korea will get top priority when the A-list of US and Chinese diplomats and defense chiefs meet in Washington on Wednesday for high powered engagements on security, foreign policy and economy.
The US and others have long turned to economic sanctions as a form of punishment. The threat of add-on sanctions against Chinese companies operating in Pyongyang is the talk ahead of Otto’s funeral which will fan existing outrage and emotion to a higher level.
Almost every question posed to the White House on Warmbier comes back with a China angle: “Obviously, China can play, has played and can continue to play a greater role in helping to resolve this situation, and we will continue to hopefully build on the relationship and the dialogue that we’ve had with China. I think there have been some positive steps that they’ve taken, both at the UN and economically, to help strengthen the case against North Korea”.
“There seems to be a general attitude of not using physical violence against Americans, although they don’t appear unwilling to use psychological tactics and that sort thing,” Robert R King, a former State Department special envoy for North Korea who handled Warmbier’s case until January 2017, told the New York Times.
Doctors at Johns Hopkins are saying that the kind of brain damage in Otto’s case is unlikely without "external intervention" — euphemism for torture of some sort.
North Korea has detained 16 Americans since 1996 and Warmbier’s death has driven a new wedge in relations between Washington and Pnongyang while three other Americans are still imprisoned in North Korea.
Trump is counting on China’s leverage with Kim Jong Un's regime which has long been threatening that its nuclear-tipped missile can strike the US mainland.
Despite the White House silence on the cause of Warmbier’s death, politicians on both sides of the aisle have called it murder — “Otto is dead because of Kim Jong Un’s repressive, murderous regime”.
On examining Warmbier, doctors at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center said they found no visible signs of trauma or fractures and the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of his brain was consistent with “cardiopulmonary arrest” although nothing in his previous medical history suggests he could die of this at 22.
So far, these responses below are all the White House is willing to say about Warmer’s death and the message is clear from Trump's — Obama has Warmbier's blood on his hands, the Trump administration deserves applause for at least bringing Otto back.
“The President was pleased that he was able to work with the state department and get Otto home as soon as he could. But I think when you realize what happened, the President believes that had it happened sooner or quicker, potentially there might have been additional medical resources that could have been provided. He was just obviously saddened by this entire situation and just would have hoped that it could have been resolved earlier.
“Well, I think the President has spoken very clearly about how he, the First Lady, and our country feels about the loss of this American. And obviously, when you look at how he was handled, it's something that we will continue to apply economic and political pressure, and try to continue to work with our allies. We've had, I think, positive movement on China over the past five months of this administration, and we'll continue to work with them and others to put the appropriate pressure on North Korea to change this behavior and this regime.
“We have been very forceful in our political and economic pressure that has been applied in North Korea. I think we’ll continue to apply that. And as I mentioned earlier, obviously, China can play, has played and can continue to play a greater role in helping to resolve this situation, and we will continue to hopefully build on the relationship and the dialogue that we’ve had with China. I think there have been some positive steps that they’ve taken, both at the UN and economically, to help strengthen the case against North Korea.”
Otto Warmbier’s funeral is scheduled for Thursday at his alma mater Wyoming High School in Ohio.
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Updated Date: Jun 21, 2017 20:43:31 IST