US should ‘honour promise’ to pay for Otto Warmbier’s release says diplomat who negotiated deal 


The former US diplomat who negotiated the release of Otto Warmbier from North Korea in 2017 has said the administration of President Donald Trump should honour the promise it made to pay $2 million for his freedom. 

In an interview with CNN, Joseph Yun, who was US special representative for North Korea affairs in the summer of 2017, said North Korea demanded $2 million for Mr Warmbier’s medical care after he was arrested in January 2016 for attempting to steal a propaganda poster from a hotel in Pyongyang. 

Sentenced in March 2016 to 15 years, North Korea claims that 22-year-old Mr Warmbier fell into a coma the same day, although they only informed the US of his condition 15 months later. 

Tasked with winning the release of the University of Virginia student, Mr Yun said, “As soon as the North Korean side told me that his bill for $2 million would have to be paid, of course, I contacted my boss, then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, to ask him.

“And he got back to me very quickly thereafter to say ‘Yes, go ahead and sign’.” 

Mr Yun said he understood that Mr Tillerson had passed the request on to President Trump, who had approved the deal. 


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