Otto Warmbier, who died last June a few days after he was sent home in a mysterious coma after more than a year in prison in North Korea. Picture: AFP
Otto Warmbier, who died last June a few days after he was sent home in a mysterious coma after more than a year in prison in North Korea. Picture: AFP

‘Otto Warmbier didn’t die in vain’

DONALD Trump says the historic North Korea summit would not have happened without the tragic death of Otto Warmbier, the American student who died almost a year ago back on American soil - days after being released, barely alive, from detention in North Korea.

As the President spoke about his historic deal with North Korea and lauded its reclusive leader Kim Jong-un as "talented" at a press conference in Singapore, Mr Trump said Mr Warmbier, "did not die in vain" because his death brought about the nuclear talks.

Asked by a reporter how he could comfortably call Kim "talented" after he "killed family members, has starved his own people, is responsible for the death of Otto Warmbier," Mr Trump replied: "Otto Warmbier is a very special person and he will be for a long time in my life".

In September last year, Mr Trump accused North Korea of brutally abusing Mr Warmbier and the President publicly accused the country of torture in the case.

"I think without Otto, this would not have happened. Something happened from that day, it was a terrible thing, it was brutal, but a lot of people started to focus on what was going on, including North Korea," Mr Trump said after the summit.

"I really think that Otto is someone who did not die in vain. I told this to his parents."

Accused of ignoring Kim's human rights record in his face-to-face meeting with Kim, Mr Trump said human rights did come up during the talks, albeit briefly.

Mr Trump says he believes Kim wants to do the right thing.

In a moment that would never happen in North Korea, reporters began yelling questions to Mr Trump and Kim after they signed the document, including whether they had discussed Mr Warmbier's case.

The 22-year-old University student, was touring North Korea when he was arrested for allegedly stealing a propaganda sign and was sentenced to 15 years of hard labour.

He had been in a North Korean prison for 17 months before he was returned to the US in June last year. Brain damaged and in a coma, he was released by North Korea on "humanitarian grounds".

He died six days after he got home to Ohio.

North Korea denied it had tortured or mistreated him, and said the brain injury was due to botulism, but American doctors could find no indication of the poisoning condition.

Earlier this year, Mr Warmbier's parents took legal action against North Korea, alleging that the government tortured and murdered their son.

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