North Korea denies torturing American detainee Otto Warmbier

27 June, 2017, 14:30 | Author: Irene Delgado
  • Paul Vernon  AFP  Getty Images Mourners arrive at Wyoming High School in Wyoming Ohio

The death of American university student Otto Warmbier earlier this week, after his release from 17 months of imprisonment in Pyongyang, further complicated Trump's approach to North Korea.

"The smear campaign against (North Korea) staged in the U.S. compels us to make firm determination that humanitarianism and benevolence for the enemy are a taboo and we should further sharpen the blade of law", the foreign ministry spokesman said in state media.

The North's official Korean Central News Agency on Friday denied that North Korea cruelly treated or tortured Otto Warmbier and accused the United States and South Korea of a smear campaign that insulted what it called its "humanitarian" treatment of him.

Ria Westergaard Pedersen, 33, who was with Warmbier in North Korea, told the Danish broadcaster TV2 that he had been nervous when taking pictures of soldiers, and said she doubted North Korea's explanation for his arrest.

His death heightened the conflict between the North and the United States already aggravated by North Korea's defiant missile launches and two nuclear tests since early a year ago as part of its effort to build a nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of hitting the USA mainland.

The funeral service was open to the public but the Warmbier family requested for the press not to film inside the school or at his burial site.

Warmbier was travelling in North Korea with a tour group.

Doctors there said Warmbier had suffered a severe neurological injury from an unknown cause.

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Some 2,000 people filled an auditorium, cafeteria and gym at a school in Otto Warmbier's home town of Wyoming, Ohio, for the service.

Warmbier was freed after the US State Department's special envoy on North Korea, Joseph Yun, travelled to Pyongyang and demanded the student's release on humanitarian grounds, capping a flurry of diplomatic contacts, a US official has said.

Thousands of people from his small hometown of Wyoming, Ohio, packed into Otto Warmbier's old high school for his funeral.

Sentenced to hard labor early past year for stealing a political poster from a North Korean hotel, Warmbier was medically evacuated to the United States in a coma last week after almost 18 months in captivity.

North Korean officials told U.S. envoys that Warmbier contracted botulism after his trial and lapsed into a coma after taking a sleeping pill.

"Although Warmbier was a criminal who committed a hostile act against the DPRK, we accepted the repeated requests of the present United States administration and, in consideration of his bad health, sent him back home on humanitarian grounds", the spokesman said. Diplomats say Beijing has not been fully enforcing existing worldwide sanctions on its neighbour and has resisted tougher measures, such as an oil embargo and bans on the North Korean airline and guest workers. He arrived in a comatose state June 13 and died less than a week later surrounded by his family, who live in a suburb of Cincinnati.

"I gave them the same advice that I'd given to other families", Revere said. His family asked the local coroner not to perform an autopsy.

"You can get a high-level visit from Washington, and that is a good propaganda coup domestically to say, 'Look they came, they bowed before me, and I am a benevolent ruler getting and freeing these people, '" Terry said.

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