President Trump approved paying a $2 million medical bill from North Korea for Otto Warmbier, the American college student who spent 17 months in a North Korean prison and later in a hospital, most of that time in a coma, reports the Washington Post.
It’s unclear if the bill was ever actually paid.
Warmbier, 22, died shortly after being flown to the U.S. in June 2017. He had been sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for trying to steal a propoganda sign from a Pyongyang hotel.
“Such an infraction would be minor in almost any other country,” the Post says, “but in North Korea it was considered a ‘hostile act against the state.’”
The medical bill, which had not previously been disclosed by U.S. or North Korean officials, “was extraordinarily brazen even for a regime known for its aggressive tactics,” the Post says.
“But the main U.S. envoy sent to retrieve Warmbier signed an agreement to pay the medical bill on instructions passed down from President Trump, according to two people familiar with the situation,” the newspaper says, noting that the sources spoke on condition they remain anonymous.
Otto’s father, Fred Warmbier, told the Post he never knew about the bill. He said it sounded like a “ransom” for his late son.
“Warmbier’s brain damage at North Korea’s hands and subsequent death caused widespread shock in the United States,” the Post says, “but the news that North Korea expected the [U.S.] to pay for his care has caused further backlash.”
“This is outrageous,” said Greg Scarlatoiu, executive director of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea. “They killed a perfectly healthy and happy college student and then had the audacity to expect the U.S. government to pay for his care.”