President Donald Trump on Friday denied making any payments to North Korea for Otto Warmbier after reports surfaced that the president agreed to pay $2 million to cover the medical care for the late American prisoner.
Citing two unnamed sources, The Washington Post reported that North Korean authorities demanded that representatives sent to bring Warmbier back to the states sign a pledge to pay the bill before allowing the return. The sources told The Post that the agreement was signed on orders from the president, but a source told Fox News that the U.S. did not pay the money.
While the bill was allegedly sent to the Treasury Department, there was no confirmation on whether or not the money was paid.
“We do not comment on hostage negotiations, which is why they have been so successful during this administration,” White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders said in a statement.
Trump flatly denied paying North Korea in a tweet.
No money was paid to North Korea for Otto Warmbier, not two Million Dollars, not anything else. This is not the Obama Administration that paid 1.8 Billion Dollars for four hostages, or gave five terroist hostages plus, who soon went back to battle, for traitor Sgt. Bergdahl!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 26, 2019
Warmbier, 21, a student of the University of Virginia, was on tour in North Korea from late December 2015 through January 2016. When attempting to leave the country, he was detained and later charged for allegedly committing the “hostile act” of attempting to leave the country with a propaganda sign he had stolen from a hotel.
For reasons unknown, Warmbier fell into a coma after he was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in prison. He reportedly stayed in the coma for 17 months until he was returned to the U.S. in June 2017 with severe brain damage. He never regained consciousness, and eventually his family decided to remove his feeding tube.
North Korean officials denied ever mistreating the student and said he fell into a coma after he contracted botulism and took a sleeping pill. Fred and Cindy Warmbier blame North Korea for their son’s death.
President Donald Trump says the U.S. did not pay $2 million in medical costs to North Korea in 2017 to get American college student Otto Warmbier released. https://t.co/n7NLVJAXzV— PBS NewsHour (@NewsHour) April 26, 2019
“Otto Warmbier was mistreated by North Korea in so many ways, including his wrongful conviction and harsh sentence, and the fact that for 16 months they refused to tell his family or our country about his dire condition they caused. No, the United States owes them nothing. They owe the Warmbier family everything,” Sen. Rob Portman told Fox News.
Fox News also reported that last year, the Trump administration was able to safely bring three American prisoners held by North Korea back to the U.S. Kim Dong Chul, Tony Kim, and Kim Hak Song were returned to the U.S. last May in “good health.”