The Washington Post and other media outlets are reporting that President Donald Trump agreed to pay a $2 million medical bill issued by North Korea in exchange for Otto Warmbier’s release. The University of Virginia student had fallen into a coma after being taken into custody by North Korea for committing a “hostile act against the state.”
Warmbier had allegedly pulled a propaganda poster down and was going to attempt to smuggle it back to the United States. The innocuous albeit immature act led to his arrest, which resulted in a long jail sentence. At some point, however, Warmbier fell into a coma. It’s unclear what led to his medical condition but it’s believed that he was in a coma for up to 15 months before eventually being released back to the United States.
President Trump had initially claimed that he had secured Warmbier’s release without paying any money. However, it turns out that Trump had, in fact, authorized a $2 million payment to cover medical costs. The bill was sent to the Treasury Department but it’s unclear if it has ever been paid.
Quite possibly, the payment has been tied up as negotiations between the United States and North Korea have hit many stumbling blocks in recent months. While a denuclearization/peace deal seemed imminent after Trump first met with counterpart Kim Jong Un in Singapore, talks have since broken down.
Kim Jong Un had once been on very friendly terms with President Donald Trump. Most recently, however, Kim has been accusing the United States of acting in bad faith. He has also called for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to be replaced at the negotiating table. For now, President Trump appears to be backing his secretary.