Otto Warmbier’s parents have shared horrific details of his condition when he arrived home from North Korea.
In an interview with Fox and Friends, Fred and Cindy Warmbier said that the North Koreans were “terrorists” who had “systematically tortured” their son.
Otto Warmbier was jailed in Pyongyang in 2016 for stealing a hotel sign.
The American student was released on medical grounds in June 2017 but arrived home seriously ill and died days later.
North Korea has always denied mistreating Otto Warmbier. According to North Korean officials, he contracted botulism while in prison but US doctors found no trace of this.
In their first interview since their son’s death, Fred and Cindy Warmbier told Fox News that they “felt it was time to tell the truth about the condition that Otto was in”.
American doctors had previously described Otto Warmbier as being in a state of “unresponsive wakefulness”, but his parents said calling this a coma was “unfair”.
Fred Warmbier said when they saw his son he was “moving around, and jerking violently, making these howling and inhuman sounds”.
His head was shaved, he was blind and deaf, his arms and legs were “totally deformed” and he had a huge scar on his foot, he said. It “looked like someone had taken a pair of pliers and rearranged his bottom teeth”.
Fred Warmbier said: “Otto was systematically tortured and intentionally injured by Kim and his regime. This was no accident.”
He also said Otto had been abandoned by his family, his country and the world and that the government had given them no information about his death.
Cindy Warmbier said North Korea sent him home because “they didn’t want him to die on their soil”.
The family refused a post-mortem examination because they thought Otto had suffered enough and “I wasn’t going to let him out of my sight,” she said.
Cindy Warmbier also pleaded with people not to go to North Korea, saying it was “playing into” Pyongyang’s propaganda. US citizens are now banned from travelling to North Korea.
However, the Cincinnati Enquirer, a local newspaper has disputed the allegations made by Otto Warmbier’s parents.
The newspaper said it had obtained a copy of a coroner’s report on Otto Warmbier, based on an external examination, which revealed several small scars but nothing which indicated torture.
The Cincinnati Enquirer quoted the Hamilton County coroner as saying Otto Warmbier’s teeth were “natural and in good repair” and that he appeared to have died from brain damage caused by a lack of oxygen.
President Donald Trump, who is known to watch Fox and Friends, tweeted that it had been “a great interview”, and that “Otto was tortured beyond belief by North Korea”.
The president’s comment is likely to stoke the escalating tensions between North Korea and the US, which have exchanged allegations and threats at an unprecedented rate in recent weeks.
On September 24, US warplanes flew close to North Korea’s coast in a show of force.
Speaking as he left New York after the UN General Assembly, Ri Yong-ho said his country had the right to shoot down US warplanes even if they were not in North Korea’s airspace.
On September 25, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the US had “not declared war against North Korea and frankly the suggestion of that is absurd”.
Pentagon spokesman Col. Robert Manning reacted by saying: “If North Korea does not stop their provocative actions, you know, we will make sure that we provide options to the president to deal with North Korea.”
South Korea – technically at war with North Korea since the 1950s – called for “astuteness and steadfastness” in responding to what it describes as continued provocations by Pyongyang.
Speaking in New York, South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha called for the prevention of any “further escalation of tensions, or any kind of accidental military clashes in the region which can quickly spiral out of control”.
South Korea’s intelligence service said North Korea was readjusting the position of its military aircraft and strengthening its coastal defenses, according to the South’s news agency Yonhap.
Stéphane Dujarric, a spokesman for UN Secretary General António Guterres, said that “fiery talk can lead to fatal misunderstandings” and that “the only solution for this is a political solution”.
China’s ambassador to the UN, Liu Jieyi, told Reuters: “We want things to calm down.
“It’s getting too dangerous and it’s in nobody’s interest.”
Despite weeks of tension, experts have played down the risk of direct conflict.
North Korea has continued to carry out nuclear and ballistic missile tests in recent weeks, in defiance of successive rounds of UN sanctions.
Pyongyang says nuclear capabilities are its only deterrent against an outside world seeking to destroy it.
After North Korea’s latest and most powerful nuclear test earlier this month, the UN Security Council approved new sanctions on the country.
North Korea claims that a plan that could see it fire four missiles near the US territory of Guam will be ready in a matter of days.
According to state media, Hwasong-12 rockets would pass over Japan and land in the sea about 17 miles from Guam, if the plan was approved by Kim Jong-un.
North Korea denounced President Donald Trump’s warnings of “fire and fury” and said the US leader was “bereft of reason”.
The US has warned North Korea its actions could mean the “end of its regime”.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Pyongyang would be “grossly overmatched” in any war against the US and its allies.
North Korea first announced on August 9 that it had been drawing up plans for a missile strike against Guam, a Pacific island which is home to US military bases, strategic bombers and about 163,000 people.
A later statement carried by state media said the North Korean military would “finally complete the plan” by mid-August and send it to leader Kim Jong-un for his approval.
“The Hwasong-12 rockets to be launched by the KPA [Korean People’s Army] will cross the sky above Shimane, Hiroshima and Koichi [Kochi] Prefectures of Japan,” state news agency KCNA said, quoting army chief General Kim Rak Gyom.
“They will fly 3,356.7km for 1,065 seconds and hit the waters 30-40km away from Guam.”
The Hwasong missiles are North Korea’s domestically produced medium and long-range weapons.
The governor of Guam addressed North Korea’s new statement on August 10, telling Reuters that Pyongyang usually likes to be unpredictable and has fired surprise missiles in the past.
“They’re now telegraphing their punch, which means they don’t want to have any misunderstandings. I think that’s a position of fear,” said Governor Eddie Calvo.
President Trump boasted about America’s atomic arsenal earlier on August 9.
Tweeting from New Jersey where he is on holiday, President Trump said the US nuclear stockpile was “more powerful than ever before”.
The launch comes on the eve of a visit by China’s President Xi Jinping to the US to meet President Donald Trump.
The two will discuss how to rein in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.
North Korea is banned from any missile or nuclear tests by the UN, though has repeatedly broken those sanctions.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson described the launch as “yet another” intermediate range ballistic missile, adding: “The United States has spoken enough about North Korea. We have no further comment.”
The US military’s Pacific Command said it appeared to have been a KN-15 medium-range ballistic missile.
“The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) determined the missile launch from North Korea did not pose a threat to North America,” it said.
Japan called the launch “provocative”, while South Korea condemned it as “a blunt challenge” to the UN and “a threat to the peace and safety of the international community as well as the Korean peninsula”.
Last month, North Korea fired four ballistic missiles towards the Sea of Japan from the Tongchang-ri region, near the border with China.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called it a “new stage of threat”.
Last week, the US Treasury slapped sanctions on 11 North Korean business representatives and one company.
On April 4, US politicians overwhelmingly backed a bill relisting North Korea as a state sponsor of terror.
North Korea responded by warning that it will retaliate if the international community steps up sanctions, saying the US was forcing the situation “to the brink of war”.
President Trump has said the US will “solve” the nuclear threat from North Korea, with or without China’s help.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Donald Trump said: “If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will. That is all I am telling you.”
Pressed on whether he thought he could succeed alone, President Trump replied: “Totally.”
Donald Trump was speaking ahead of a scheduled visit from Chinese President Xi Jinping this week.
“China has great influence over North Korea. And China will either decide to help us with North Korea, or they won’t. And if they do that will be very good for China, and if they don’t it won’t be good for anyone,” he told the Financial Times.
Asked if he meant “one-on-one” unilateral action, Donald Trump said: “I don’t have to say any more.”
The president did not give any further details on what action he would take.
Donald Trump’s brief comments, published just days before the key meeting with Xi Jinping at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida on April 6, are the latest in a series of warnings over North Korea’s nuclear development.
There are fears that North Korea could eventually develop the ability to launch long-range nuclear missiles capable of striking the mainland US.
Analysts say China has maintained its support for Pyongyang as it fears a complete collapse of the North Korean regime could lead to Korean unification, with US soldiers based in a country with a land border with China.
It is thought that China is also concerned at the prospect of millions of North Korean refugees entering its borders.