North Korea censures USA for 'smear campaign' over student's death

Elias Hubbard
June 26, 2017

North Korea said Friday that the death of Otto Warmbier, a 22-year-old American imprisoned in the country for 17 months, is a "complete mystery" to them.

The comments published by KCNA were North Korea's first reaction to Otto Warmbier's death in a USA hospital on Monday [Tuesday NZ Time] after it released him for what it called humanitarian reasons.

"The fact that Warmbier died suddenly in less than a week just after his return to the his normal state of health indicators is a mystery to us as well", the spokesman was quoted by KCNA, as saying.

University of Delaware Anthropology Professor Katherine Dettwyler has not only said that Otto Warmbier got what he deserved after falling into a coma in North Korea and dying, but has also heaped most of the blame on Warmbier's parents.

The US doctors had also said that Warmbier's severe brain injury was most likely - given his young age - to have been caused by cardiopulmonary arrest cutting the blood supply to the brain. He was incarcerated that March after being convicted of attempting to overthrow the regime and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.

The official said the United States administration was using the death to pile more pressure on North Korea.

Trump, who frequently denounced China on the campaign trail, has turned to Beijing to help pressure its ally North Korea, prompting concern among Asian partners that America might go easy on Beijing over its expansive claims in the disputed South China Sea.

Warmbier was detained in North Korea in January 2016 at the airport in Pyongyang after a short tour of the country. A spokesman for the family said this week that they chose not to disclose his Judaism during negotiations for his release so as not to antagonize North Korea. He died on Monday in a United States hospital.

The spokesman said that Warmbier was provided with proper medical treatment, and questioned why he died so soon after returning to the US. "At least I know China tried!"

Mr Warmbier was released earlier this month and returned to the U.S., where he was described as being in a "state of unresponsive wakefulness".

"I was just so happy to see the kid released", Rodman told ABC News in an interview. But U.S. doctors said they found no evidence of the illness.

His family and others have blamed North Korea for his condition, saying he was "brutalised and terrorised by the pariah regime".

In comments on her now-deleted Facebook profile, Dettwyler said Warmbier was "typical of a mindset of a lot of the young, white, rich, clueless males who come into my classes". "It's nearly just trying to reach out for sports and see if I can bring sports to North Korea". Let us be clear: "we are the greatest victim of this incident", the spokesperson claimed.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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