Almost two years after the death of Otto Warmbier, a 22-year-old college student who was released from imprisonment in North Korea in a coma, it has been revealed that the United States was presented with a significant hospital invoice.
The Post reported Thursday that two officials familiar with the situation said the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) presented the US Treasury with the bill two years ago before it would return Warmbier, who had fallen into a coma while in North Korean custody. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
While the North Koreans did not bring up the bill during Trump's summits with Kim Jong Un in Singapore and Vietnam, the source noted that the expectation for this payment could be brought up again.
"We do not comment on hostage negotiations, which is why they have been so successful during this administration", the White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, wrote in an email to the Post. Warmbier died shortly after being released. His parents say he was tortured.
"We made clear that they were never going to get anything" when the negotiating occurred for the release of the 3 Americans, the source added.
The Post said an invoice was handed to State Department envoy Joseph Yun hours before Warmbier, 22, was flown out of Pyongyang in a coma on June 13, 2017.
Warmbier was detained by North Korean officials in January 2016 while attempting to return to the United States from a tour of the country. Warmbier died six days later.
American student Otto Warmbier at his 2015 trial.
"The American doctors who came.to help Warmbier's repatriation acknowledged that his health indicators were all normal and submitted a letter of assurance to our hospital that they shared the diagnostic result of the doctors of our hospital", state media quoted the unnamed hospital director as saying in October past year.
The Warmbiers sued Pyongyang over their son's death and requested $1.05 billion in punitive damages and about $46 million for the family's suffering. "Thank you", Fred and Cindy Warmbier, Otto's parents, said in a statement provided to CNN. The White House has previously claimed it paid "nothing" to get "hostages" out of North Korea.
Yun also told Reuters he could not comment on diplomatic exchanges.
Fred Warmbier, Otto's father, said he had never been told about the hospital bill, but said it sounded like a "ransom" for his late son.