UNFORTUNATE: South Korean leader blames North for Warmbier death –
SEOUL/WASHINGTON: South Korean President Moon Jae-In on Tuesday said North Korea should swiftly return South Koreans and Americans detained in the reclusive nation and that Pyongyang had “a heavy responsibility” in the death of a US university student.
Moon, who is scheduled to visit Washington next week, also said in an interview with CBS that he hoped to draw North Korea into negotiations on its nuclear program by the end of the year even as talks with the United States over a possible pre-emptive strike could wait.
Dozens of North Korean missile launches and two nuclear bomb tests since the beginning of last year have heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula. Pyongyang has vowed to develop a nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting the US mainland.
Moon’s remarks on CBS’s “This Morning” programme came the day after the death of Otto Warmbier, the 22-year-old student who had been held prisoner in North Korea for 17 months. Warmbier died at a Cincinnati hospital just days after North Korea released him from captivity in a coma, his family said.
Warmbier was arrested while visiting as a tourist and accused of trying to steal an item bearing a propaganda slogan, according to North Korean media. Doctors caring for him last week described him as having extensive brain damage that left him in a state of “unresponsive wakefulness.”
Moon said that while “we cannot know for sure that North Korea killed Mr Warmbier… I believe it is quite clear that they have a heavy responsibility in the process that led to Mr. Warmbier’s death.
“I believe we must now have the perception that North Korea is an irrational regime,” said Moon, who was elected in May.
South Korea’s Blue House on Tuesday cited Moon separately as saying: “It is very deplorable that North Korea does not respect human rights.” North Korea has detained two Korean-American academics and a missionary, a Canadian pastor and three South Korean nationals who were doing missionary work there.
The South Korean government will make every effort for the return of those held in North Korea, presidential spokesman Park Soo-Hyun told a briefing.
US President Donald Trump blamed the “brutality of the North Korean regime” for Warmbier’s death.
North Korea said last month that it was its sovereign right to “ruthlessly punish” US citizens it had detained for crimes against the state.
Moon is scheduled to meet with Trump on June 29 and 30 for a summit that will prominently feature the North Korean nuclear and missile tests. Pyongyang continued to test-fire missiles since South Korean leader Moon took office pledging to engage in dialogue with N Korea. — Reuters