North Korea censures US for ‘smear campaign’ over student’s death

June 23, 2017 10:30 pm

This handout photo obtained courtesy of the Warmbier family shows a mourner signing a guest book at Wyoming High School in Wyoming, Ohio, on June 22, 2017, during the funeral for Otto Warmbier. (AFP photo)

Pyongyang has criticized Washington for its handling of the death of a student who was returned to the United States after falling ill in custody, saying accusations that Otto Warmbier was tortured in are a pure “smear campaign.”
In a statement on Friday, the North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman rejected Washington’s claims that Warmbier had been provided with proper medical treatment, saying North was also puzzled why the student died right after arriving in the United States.
“The fact that Warmbier died suddenly in less than a week just after his return to the US in his normal state of health indicators is a mystery to us as well,” the North Korean official said of the death of the 22-year-old student, which took place on Monday at a Cincinnati hospital.
The official said the US administration was using the death to pile more pressure on North Korea. It warned that such actions would force North Korea to become even stricter in its way of dealing with other US nationals held in the country.
“The smear campaign against (North Korea) staged in the US compels us to make firm determination that… we should further sharpen the blade of law,” said the spokesman, adding, “The US should ponder over the consequences to be entailed from its reckless and rash act.”
Warmbier was detained and sentenced to hard labor early last year while he was in a hotel on a tourist trip. US media claimed he had stolen a political poster from the facility he was staying in.

The casket carrying the remains of Otto Warmbier is carried out of Wyoming High School in Wyoming, Ohio, June 22, 2017, following his funeral. (AFP photo)

The foreign ministry spokesman denied accusations that Warmbier was abused while in his “reform through labor” and condemned them as “groundless public opinion” circulating in the United States.
The death of Warmbier has inflamed already high tensions between the US and North Korea. Washington has repeatedly criticized Pyongyang for its nuclear and missile tests. The administration of President Donald Trump has even warned Pyongyang of military action, saying rounds of international sanctions on the country seems not to be enough.
Trump has slammed treatment of Warmbier as “a total disgrace” while other officials, such as Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, have warned after the death of Warmbier that Washington’s patience with Pyongyang is running out.
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