Both former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley and President Trump deserve serious praise for their clear condemnation of North Korea in the death of American college student Otto Warmbier.
Haley was exactly right on Thursday when she tweeted: “Americans know the cruelty that was placed on Otto Warmbier by the North Korean regime. Our hearts are with the Warmbier family for their strength and courage. We will never forget Otto.”
Haley was referring to the then-21-year-old University of Virginia student who was arrested and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in North Korea after he allegedly took a piece of propaganda from a hotel room in Pyongyang in 2016.
When Warmbier was returned to the United States 17 months later (after pressure from the Trump administration) he had been so badly beaten and abused that he died days later.
Haley’s statement Thursday echoes what President Trump has said in the past about the terrible, barbaric treatment of Warmbier by the North Koreans.
And President Trump was also right to quickly clarify himself Friday when he tweeted: “Of course I hold North Korea responsible for Otto’s mistreatment and death."
After Warmbier died in June 2017, President Trump was clear in his repudiation. At that time, he said that "the United States once again condemns the brutality of the North Korean regime as we mourn its latest victim."
And in September 2017, President Trump noted that Warmbier was “tortured beyond belief by North Korea.”
Furthermore, President Trump’s resolve and position on North Korea’s villainous, inhumane treatment of Warmbier were clear when he invited Fred and Cindy Warmbier, the young man’s parents, to attend his first State of the Union address in January 2018.
Haley deserves praise for highlighting Warmbier’s death – and the North Korean regime’s clear responsibility for it – after comments President Trump made following the halt of his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam Thursday.
And President Trump was also right to quickly clarify himself Friday when he tweeted: “Of course I hold North Korea responsible for Otto’s mistreatment and death. Most important, Otto Warmbier will not have died in vain. Otto and his family have become a tremendous symbol of strong passion and strength, which will last for many years into the future.”
President Trump is trying to navigate a very serious, dangerous relationship with the North Koreans. He took exactly the right tack in walking away from negotiations when Kim was demanding full sanctions relief while refusing to fully denuclearize.
Trump is also exactly right for clarifying his comments about the culpability of North Korea in Warmbier’s death. Otto was a young, promising, American whose life was cut short by the savage, cruel, tyranny of the North Korean regime.
Haley did the right thing in making that clear. And President Trump has done the right thing in joining her.
No deal is worth diminishing the dignity of an American life – especially one that was brutally murdered by a tyrant.