Otto Warmbier, the University of Virginia student who was released from North Korea in June 2017 after 17 months imprisonment for alleged crimes against the regime, died less than a week after returning home to the United States brain-damaged and in a coma.
Now, the Washington Post reports that North Korea demanded the U.S. government fork over roughly $2 million to cover the cost of medical care for Warmbier — and despite furious allegations that the Pyongyang tortured Warmbier to death, the United States reportedly agreed at the time to pay up.
Here are the maddening details, per the Washington Post (emphasis ours):
The presentation of the invoice — not previously disclosed by U.S. or North Korean officials — was extraordinarily brazen even for a regime known for its aggressive tactics.
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. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
The bill went to the Treasury Department, where it remained — unpaid — throughout 2017, the people said. However, it is unclear whether the Trump administration later paid the bill, or whether it came up during preparations for Trump's two summits with Kim Jong Un.
In March 2016, North Korea sentenced Warmbier to 15 years in prison with hard labor for allegedly attempting to remove a propaganda sign from a Pyongyang hotel the previous New Year's Day.
The North Korean regime claim Warmbier died after contracting botulism. And while medical examinations of Warmbier didn't conclusively reveal evidence of physical torture, President Donald Trump claimed months later that Warmbier “was tortured beyond belief by North Korea.”
Great interview on @foxandfriends with the parents of Otto Warmbier: 1994 – 2017. Otto was tortured beyond belief by North Korea.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 26, 2017
Trump recently previously came under fire from Warmbier's parents earlier this year after stating that he took North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un “at his word” that the latter had no knowledge of Warmbier's harsh treatment.
“Kim and his evil regime are responsible for the death of our son Otto,” Fred and Cindy Warmbier said in a March statement in response to Trump's comments. “Kim and his evil regime are responsible for unimaginable cruelty and inhumanity. No excuses or lavish praise can change that.”