President Trump on Thursday said he doesn’t believe North Korean leader Kim Jong-un knew about the treatment of American student Otto Warmbier, adding that Kim “felt very badly about” Warmbier’s death shortly after being returned to the U.S.
The president’s comments came during a press conference in Hanoi, as part of his trip to Vietnam to meet with Kim.
“I really believe something very bad happened to [Warmbier], and I don’t think that the top leadership know about it,” Trump said. “I don’t believe that [Kim] would’ve allowed that to happen. Just wasn’t to his advantage to allow that to happen.”
Trump added: “Those prisons are rough. They’re rough places, and bad things happened. But … I don’t believe [Kim] knew about it.”
Trump added that “some really bad things happened to Otto. Some really, really bad things.”
President Trump on Otto Warmbier: "I really believe something very bad happened to him, and I don't think that the top leadership knew about it…(Kim Jong-Un) felt very badly about it…He tells me that he didn't know about it, and I will take him at his word." pic.twitter.com/EWnw7BzVNe
— Axios (@axios) February 28, 2019
Warmbier was a University of Virginia student who was charged with stealing a North Korean propaganda poster early on New Year’s Day 2016 — setting off an international firestorm in the process. He was imprisoned and sentenced to 15 years hard labor by the North Korean government after issuing a televised, tear-filled apology. Warmbier was returned to the U.S. in a comatose state in June 2017 and died shortly after. Warmbier’s father said his son was “brutalized and terrorized” by the North Korean regime while imprisoned.
Trump acknowledged Warmbier was returned to the U.S. in “terrible” shape, but that other prisoners released by North Korea were “extremely healthy,” leading him to believe Kim was unaware of the 22-year-old’s treatment.
Trump says he believes Kim Jong Un was not responsible for what happened to Otto Warmbier.
"Those prisons are rough…He tells me that he didn’t know about it and I will take him at his word.”
Echoes of Trump previously taking Vladimir Putin at his word.
— Philip Rucker (@PhilipRucker) February 28, 2019
“He tells me that he didn’t know about it and I will take him at his word,” Trump said.