Dad of late North Korea prisoner backs US talks with Pyongyang

Otto Warmbier was arrested in North Korea for a petty offence and held for more than a year before he was released in a comatose state in 2017.

Published: 29th May 2018 05:31 PM  |   Last Updated: 29th May 2018 05:31 PM   |  A+A-

Otto Warmbier was held prisoner in Pyongyang for over a year. (Photo | AP)


OSLO: The father of Otto Warmbier, the US student who died after being held in North Korea, said Tuesday he favoured US talks with Pyongyang, a move he hoped would bring "the world's most barbaric dictatorship...out of its hole".

Otto Warmbier was arrested in North Korea for a petty offence and held for more than a year before he was released in a comatose state in 2017.

Warmbier, aged 22, died shortly after he was flown home unconscious. Although North Korea claimed he had contracted botulism in detention, the US has since alleged that he was tortured in custody.

US President Donald Trump is planning to hold a historic summit with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un, scheduled for June 12 in Singapore.

"The diplomatic track with negotiations, I support them," Otto's father Fred Warmbier said at the Oslo Freedom Forum, an annual gathering of human rights activists in the Norwegian capital.

"Not talking to North Korea has helped foster the world's most threatening, barbaric dictatorship. I don't know if talking to them is going to change them but at least it will bring them out of their hole and force them to engage."

The diplomatic efforts have however not prevented Warmbier and his wife Cynthia from pursuing legal action against North Korea.

The couple has accused the Pyongyang regime in a US court of murder and torture of their son, who was sentenced to 15 years of hard labour for stealing a propaganda poster.

"I'm going to do everything in my power to force them to be answerable to what they did to my son," Fred Warmbier said.

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