Ex-diplomat says US signed to pay N Korea for prisoner, should honor deal

01-May-2019 Intellasia | AFP | 6:00 AM Print This Post

A former diplomat confirmed Monday that the United States agreed to pay $2 million to North Korea to release an American student who had fallen into a coma after alleged tortureand said Washington should honor the commitment.

Joseph Yun, a veteran US diplomat who had flown to Pyongyang in 2017 to bring back 22-year-old Otto Warmbier, said that North Korea presented him with a $2 million bill for his medical expenses.

He said he called up then secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who he believed then sought a green light directly from President Donald Trump.

Tillerson “got back to me very quickly thereafter to say, yes, go ahead and sign,” Yun, who has since left government, told CNN.

Joseph Yun (right), the former US special envoy for North Korea, confirmed he had signed an agreement with the North Koreans for the payment of the money before American Otto Warmbier was flown out of Pyongyang.(AFP)

Joseph Yun (right), the former US special envoy for North Korea, confirmed he had signed an agreement with the North Koreans for the payment of the money before American Otto Warmbier was flown out of Pyongyang. (AFP)

The Washington Post first reported the payment demand, after which Trump, describing himself as “the greatest hostage negotiator” in US history, tweeted that nothing was paid to North Korea.

But Yun said that Trump’s decision means that the United States should pay.

“If you’ve signed, if you promised another government from the US government that you’ll make the payment, my view certainly is that we should go ahead and meet our commitment,” he said, adding that it was a separate issue whether to sign in the first place.

- US says won’t pay for hostages -

The United States has been adamant that it will not pay for hostages or prisoners, saying it does not want to create incentives to snatch Americans.

“At no time in this administration have we paid for any hostage to be released, and we have no intention of doing so,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at a forum organised by The Hill newspaper.

Warmbier, a University of Virginia student, was imprisoned after being accused of taking down a propaganda poster in his hotel during a trip to North Korea.

Doctors said he suffered severe brain damage while in North Korean detention, fell into a coma and died days after arriving back in the United States.

In December, a US judge found that North Korea tortured Warmbier and awarded his family $501 million from North Koreaanother sum that is unlikely to ever be paid willingly.

John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, separately confirmed in an interview with “Fox News Sunday” that North Korea had asked for money to release Warmbier, while noting that he was not in the administration at the time.

Asked if the United States paid, Bolton said: “Absolutely not, and I think that’s the key point.”

Since Warmbier’s death, Trump has moved to make peace with North Korea and has described himself as fond of its authoritarian leader Kim Jong Un.

Trump set off a firestorm after a summit with Kim in February when he said he took the North Korean leader “at his word” that he knew nothing about Warmbier’s death.

North Korea has denied mistreatment of Warmbier and said that he contracted botulism.

https://sg.news.yahoo.com/ex-diplomat-says-us-pay-n-korea-prisoner-195407944.html

 


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