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“A brutal regime”

North Korea faces calls to release remaining U.S. prisoners after Otto Warmbier's death

North Korea faces calls to release remaining U.S. prisoners after Otto Warmbier’s death

Following the death of U.S. student Otto Warmbier, North Korea faced new calls to release the remaining detainees from the U.S. and South Korea Tuesday — as President Trump condemned the “brutality” of the kingdom’s regime.

Warmbier’s death, announced Monday, came less than a week after he was unexpectedly flown back to the U.S. in a coma, after being held prisoner for 17 months in North Korea. He received treatment at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, which was ultimately unsuccessful. Announcing his death, the student’s family accused the North Korean authorities of “tortuous mistreatment.”

Speaking Tuesday, South Korea’s newly elected President Moon Jae-in called on North Korea to release not only the three remaining U.S. citizens but also six South Koreans who remain in custody in the hermit kingdom. “It is very deplorable that North Korea does not respect human rights,” he added.

Government officials in Seoul said that North Korea has yet to respond to their demands to check on the state of its six nationals detained in the North. Among those detained are three missionaries who were sentenced to hard labor for life on charges of working for South Korea’s spy agency.

In the U.S. Warmbier’s death has stoked anger towards North Korea. “Let us state the facts plainly: Otto Warmbier, an American citizen, was murdered by the Kim Jong Un regime,” Sen. John McCain said. And California Rep. Adam Schiff tweeted that Pyongyang was a “barbarous regime.”

Republican Sen. Rob Portman, who is from Warmbier’s home state of Ohio, said North Korea should be “universally condemned for its abhorrent behavior.” Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown said the country’s “despicable actions … must be condemned.” Portman added that the Warmbiers have “had to endure more than any family should have to bear.”

At a White House event Monday, President Trump said Pyongyang “is a brutal regime and we’ll be able to handle it.” In a statement released later, Trump added that Warmbier’s death “deepens my administration’s determination to prevent such tragedies from befalling innocent people at the hands of regimes that do not respect the rule of law or basic human decency.”

The tour company that organized Warmbier’s trip to North Korea announced Tuesday that it would no longer be arranging for Americans to visit the country. “We have been struggling to process the result,” Young Pioneer Tours, a China-based travel agency, said in a Facebook post. “Now, the assessment of risk for Americans visiting North Korea has become too high.”

Just last month, North Korea said it had a sovereign right to “ruthlessly punish” any U.S. citizen detained for crimes against the state. Recently it arrested Korean Americans Tony Kim and Kim Hak Song for alleged hostile acts. Both worked at the foreign-funded Pyongyang University of Science and Technology. Over a year ago, Pyongyang sentenced 62-year-old Korean-American missionary Kim Dong Chul to 10 years hard labor for subversion.

Cover: ASSOCIATED PRESS

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