The parents of a US student, who was jailed in North Korea for over a year, have said the country should be listed as a state sponsor of terror in their first interview since their son’s death in June.
Otto Warmbier, 22, was arrested in January 2016 while he visited the country, accused of removing a propaganda poster from his hotel room. He was sentenced to 15 years hard labour in a highly publicised case but is believed to have fallen ill shortly after.
The University of Virginia student’s condition was not discovered until June 2017 when the North Korean authorities said he had fallen into a coma after being treated for botulism. He died in his home state of Ohio six days after US diplomats secured his release on medical grounds.
Speaking to Fox News on Tuesday, Fred and Cindy Warmbier said they believed North Korea was “claiming to be a victim”.
“They are terrorists. They kidnapped Otto, they tortured him, [and] they intentionally injured him," Mr Warmbier said.
He added: “It was astounding to Cindy and I to discover that North Korea is not listed as a state sponsor of terror. We owe it to the world to list it to North Korea as a state sponsor of terror.”
Mr and Mrs Warmbier described the moment they saw their son for the first time when he arrived in Cincinnati on an airplane, having been told shortly before that Otto had suffered brain damage.
Mrs Warmbier said her son was “howling” so loud that she ran off the plane in distress.
“Otto had a shaved head, he had a feeding tube coming out of his nose, he was staring blankly into space, jerking violently,” said Mr Warmbier.
“He was blind. He was deaf. As we looked at him and tried to comfort him it looked like someone had taken a pair of pliers and rearranged his bottom teeth.”
US President Trump, who has been engaged in a war of words with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, said that Otto had been “tortured beyond belief” by the North Koreans.
North Korea denies torturing the student, instead claiming they acted on a “humanitarian basis” by returning him to the US.