During an interview on this week’s Fox News Sunday, National Security Adviser John Bolton clarified some of the circumstances around recent reporting that the U.S. had effectively paid a $2 million ransom to North Korea in exchange for American student Otto Warmbier, HuffPost reports. Bolton confirmed that the U.S. had indeed signed an agreement in June of 2007 which stated that $2 million would be paid for the release of Warmbier, who, at that point, was comatose as a result of his treatment in North Korea.
Bolton indicated that it was Joseph Yun, an envoy from the State Department, who was sent to retrieve the student and that Yun had agreed to the payment.
However, when asked if the U.S. had followed through with that agreement, Bolton said “absolutely not.”
“I think that’s the key point,” Bolton told Fox’s Chris Wallace. “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.”
Wallace, who continues to build a reputation for asking hard-hitting questions to the Trump administration, continued to push on Bolton with additional questions, asking if Bolton was saying that the U.S. had basically signed an agreement that they didn’t intend to honor.
“Well, I don’t know the circumstances,” Bolton said in reply. “I think when people leave government sometimes their recollections of things that happened inside tend to be a little different from what actually happened. It’s very clear to me from my looking into it in the past few days, no money was paid.”
Even so, it was just last week that The Washington Post broke the story on the previously unknown agreement between North Korea and the United States, which was informed by two unnamed sources that were close to the matter. According to those sources, the North Korean dictatorship has demanded that Yun sign a document committing to the $2 million payment, which was framed in the guise of a medical bill for Warmbier’s care.
President Donald Trump then reportedly instructed that Yun sign the pledge, although Bolton would not confirm or deny on Sunday whether the president was aware of the agreement at the time.
The White House declined to comment on The Washington Post story about the reported agreement, indicating that the administration would not comment on hostage negotiations. Trump, however, did weigh in with reporters the next day, saying that no money was paid.
“There was no money paid,” the president said. “There was a fake news report that money was paid.”