U.S. President Donald Trump used fiery comments to address the threat of North Korea during his State of the Union address and used the death of Otto Warmbier to humanize the “cruel dictatorship” of the North.
Calling North Korea a “depraved” regime, Trump used tough rhetoric to address the tensions between the two countries.
“No regime has oppressed its own citizens more totally or brutally than the cruel dictatorship in North Korea,” the president said. “North Korea’s reckless pursuit of nuclear missiles could very soon threaten our homeland.”
Trump addressed the American student who had been imprisoned in the North for 17 months after he was sentenced to 15 years of hard labour for allegedly trying to steal a propaganda poster from his hotel room.
“Otto Warmbier was a hardworking student at the University of Virginia. And a great student he was. On his way to study abroad in Asia, Otto joined a tour to North Korea,” Trump said. “At its conclusion, this wonderful young man was arrested and charged with crimes against the state.
“After a shameful trial, the dictatorship sentenced Otto to 15 years of hard labor, before returning him to America last June — horribly injured and on the verge of death. He passed away just days after his return,” the president said.
Trump invited Warmbier’s family as personal guests.
“You are powerful witnesses to a menace that threatens our world, and your strength inspires us all,” Trump said to the tearful family. “Thank you very much. Tonight, we pledge to honour Otto’s memory with American resolve.”
Both Trump and the Warmbier family received a standing ovation.
The 22-year-old University of Virginia student returned to the U.S. in a vegetative state following his release from the North. He died four days later.
Hamilton County Coroner Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco said Warmbier died as a result of lack of oxygen and blood to the brain from an injury that occurred over a year prior to his death, though what caused the circulation to be cut off remained unclear.
“We don’t know what happened to him and that’s the bottom line,” Sammarco said at the time.
Saying his son had been tortured, Fred Warmbier told Fox News in an interview in September:“As we looked at him and tried to comfort him, it looked like someone had taken a pair of pliers and rearranged his bottom teeth.”
However, the coroner stated in the report Warmbier’s “teeth are natural and in good repair.”
Trump also said on social media following the Fox interview Warmbier had been “tortured beyond belief by North Korea.”
North Korea had blamed botulism and the ingestion of a sleeping pill for Warmbier‘s problems and dismissed torture claims.
–with a file from the Associated Press