Otto Warmbier’s Mother Likens North Korea to ‘Absolute Evil’

Cynthia Warmbier, the mother of Otto Warmbier, the American student who died in 2017 after being imprisoned for months in North Korea, said on Friday that diplomacy with its leader, Kim Jong-un, was a “charade” and likened Mr. Kim’s regime to “absolute evil.”

“It’s obvious to the world that we’re on to him,” she said of Mr. Kim. “But unless we keep the pressure on North Korea, they are not going to change, and I’m very afraid that we are going to let up on this pressure.”

She added: “There’s a charade going on right now. It’s called diplomacy. How can you have diplomacy with someone that never tells the truth? That’s what I want to know. I’m all for it, but I’m very skeptical.”

She made the comments at the Hudson Institute in Washington, where she sat on a panel during a seminar on the “abduction of Japanese, South Korean, American and nationals of other countries by North Korea,” according to the institute.

“This should not be a partisan issue, this is a problem,” she said.

“We can ignore it, like I would have, had this not happened to me,” she said. “I can’t guarantee that something bad is not going to happen if we leave things alone.”

Ms. Warmbier’s remarks came as North Korea fired a short-range projectile off its east coast on Saturday in a move likely to raise tensions as denuclearization talks with the United States remain stalled.

Her comments were among the few public statements the family has made since Mr. Warmbier, a University of Virginia student, was returned to the United States in June 2017.

In her speech, Ms. Warmbier thanked the American government for bringing Mr. Warmbier back to the United States. Still, his death has cast a shadow over relations with North Korea and President Trump’s efforts to engage with Mr. Kim.

In February, when Mr. Trump met with Mr. Kim during a summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, he was asked at a news conference whether he and Mr. Kim had discussed Mr. Warmbier. Mr. Trump replied, “He tells me that he didn’t know about it, and I will take him at his word.”

In a strongly worded statement in February, Mr. Warmbier’s parents said that “Kim and his evil regime are responsible for the death of our son Otto.”

“We have been respectful during this summit process,” the Warmbiers said. “Now we must speak out.”

Efforts to reach Ms. Warmbier for further comment were unsuccessful Friday night. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

In December 2015, Mr. Warmbier joined a five-day tour to North Korea with a Chinese company that advertised “budget travel to destinations your mother would rather you stayed away from.”

In early January 2016, he was arrested on charges related to trying to take down a propaganda poster in a hotel. He was sentenced to 15 years of prison and hard labor but fell into a coma during his detention. Mr. Warmbier spent 17 months in prison before being returned to the United States deaf, blind and unable to communicate.

In December, Mr. Warmbier’s parents were awarded a $501 million judgment after they sued North Korea in federal court over their son’s death, but it is unlikely they will ever see the money.

North Korea had apparently billed the Trump administration $2 million for Mr. Warmbier’s medical care, but Mr. Trump said in April the money was never paid.

“Had I known that North Korea wanted money for Otto, I would have gladly given them money from Day 1,” Ms. Warmbier said on Friday.

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