The father of Otto Warmbier, the 22-year-old U.S. student who died after being imprisoned in North Korea for 17 months, will join U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea to remind the world of the North’s “atrocities.”
Pence confirmed Monday Fred Warmbier will join the American delegation headed to PyeongChang this week.
“Honored that Fred Warmbier, father of Otto Warmbier, will join us at @pyeongchang2018 in S Korea. He & his wife remind the world of the atrocities happening in N Korea. As @POTUS made clear at the #SOTU, we pledge to honor Otto’s memory w/ American resolve,” Pence tweeted.
Trump used Warmbier’s death during his State of the Union address last week 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.”
Warmbier 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 labour, 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 had 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.”
The 2018 Winter Games is set to get underway this week with the opening ceremony scheduled for Friday. North and South Korea will march together under a unified Korean flag for the opening ceremony and will also field a unified women’s hockey team for the competition.
North Korea announced Monday the secretive state will send Kim Yong Nam, one of the country`s top leaders, to the opening ceremony.
Kim will be the highest-ranking official to cross the border since the Korean War ended in 1953, and will arrive with a 22-strong delegation in tow.
The South’s presidential Blue House in Seoul said the visit by Kim would create “various opportunities” for high-level talks.
“(Kim’s visit) shows North Korea’s resolve for improved inter-Korean relations and the success of the Olympics, as well as its sincere, earnest attitude,” Blue House spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom told a news briefing on Monday.
–with a file from Reuters