US national security adviser John Bolton admitted Sunday that the US had agreed to pay North Korea millions of dollars to secure the release of Jewish American student Otto Warmbier, but never actually made good on the bill.
When asked on Fox News Sunday if the American administration had paid North Korea, Bolton replied “absolutely not.”
On Friday, US President Donald Trump denied a Washington Post report saying the US gave North Korea money after an American official was made to sign a pledge to pay $2 million in medical costs before being allowed to fly Warmbier back home from Pyongyang in 2017.
Warmbier had been detained by the North Koreans for over a year, and died shortly after being returned home to Ohio in a coma, after allegedly being tortured in the totalitarian country.
— FoxNewsSunday (@FoxNewsSunday) April 28, 2019
Bolton confirmed that although it happened before he joined the administration, he learned that US diplomat Joseph Yun apparently did sign a document pledging the money in order to get Warmbier out.
However, Bolton rejected any notion that the money was paid.
“Absolutely not, and I think that’s the key point,” Bolton said. “The president’s been very successful in getting 20-plus hostages released from imprisonment around the world and hasn’t paid anything for any of them.”
Bolton cautioned not to jump to the conclusion that the document was signed with the intention not to honor it.
“I think when people leave government sometimes their recollection of things that happened inside tend to be a little bit different from what actually happened. But, it’s very clear to me from my looking into it in the past few days — no money was paid. That is clear.”
Warmbier was accused of trying to steal a propaganda banner, while visiting North Korea in 2015 and was later convicted of subversion. His family said they were told that he had been in a coma since shortly after he was sentenced to prison with hard labor in March 2016.
After he returned to Ohio, doctors determined he had suffered a “severe neurological injury” of unknown cause. Warmbier’s family objected to an autopsy, so the Hamilton County coroner’s office conducted only an external examination of his body.
The lawsuit said Warmbier, a University of Virginia student, was on an innocent five-day trip to North Korea in December 2015, at the time that the US announced new sanctions against Kim’s regime over its nuclear weapons proliferation activities.
Warmbier was detained on January 2, 2016, as his tour group was departing. He was accused of hostile acts against the country, as an agent of the US government.
Forced to make what his parents said was a “false confession,” he was sentenced to 15 years’ hard labor.