A new report is suggesting that North Korea tried to stick the United States with a two million dollar hospital bill after Trump and his administration worked to get American citizen Otto Warmbier out of the country.
Warmbier, who passed away in 2017 shortly after returning to the United States, was arrested in North Korea after allegedly stealing a propaganda sign from his hotel. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison with hard labor in March of 2016.
Then only 21, Warmbier fell into a coma while in custody. He remained in a coma until his death. Some speculated the coma was brought on by physical torture from North Korean authorities, while North Korean officials have said the young man suffered from botulism — a rare and potentially fatal disease that affects vision, strength, alertness, and voice — and he fell into a coma after taking a sleeping pill.
A new report from The Washington Post says North Korean officials demanded Joseph Yun, the former United States Special Representative for North Korea Policy, sign a two million dollar medical bill in order to get Warmbier released. Sources told the Post that Yun signed the agreement based on instructions from President Donald Trump.
Another report from Fox News confirmed the amount of the bill, though it’s unclear if it was ever paid.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders responded to the new reports by saying she could not discuss specifics of hostage negotiations between countries.
“We do not comment on hostage negotiations, which is why they have been so successful during this administration,” said Sanders.
Yun, who retired last year, has also refused to talk specifics about the release of Warmbier. He would only tell CNN on Thursday that he was under orders by President Trump to “completely do whatever you can to get Otto back.”
He added that money has exchanged hands before in hostage negotiations for the purpose of paying medical expenses, but he still would not detail specifics about Warmbier.
Yun said, “It is my understanding that in previous instances that there was some exchange of money which was justified on the basis of hospital costs, so I know that in previous prisoner releases there was money handed over.”
Yun traveled to North Korea in 2017 with an emergency medicine doctor, Michael Flueckiger, to retrieve Warmbier.
Yun and the doctor were reportedly taken to a place called Friendship Hospital where they found Warmbier hooked up to a feeding tube and in a room labeled, “intensive care unit.”
Otto Warmbier’s parents sued North Korea and a judge ruled in December that the nation had to pay them $501 million, but that is a bill that is almost certainly never going to be paid.
While we may never know whether the United States paid the hospital bill given to them — unlikely though — what does come out of this story is further confirmation that more action has been taken in regards to North Korea under Trump than any other recent president. Trump has taken the dictatorship head-on and started lines of communication with the country that many thought would not be established for decades.
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