Tough Fred! Your son was on a “tour” of North Korea, a devout enemy of the United States? What did you expect?
I get tired of these types of stories, where some dumb American(s) goes on a vacation in a hostile country, or near the border and crosses it, gets picked and sent to jail, and then expects the government to expend all efforts to get them out!
Enough! Let him pay for his stupidity Don! It will be a vacation that he will remember for the rest of his life!
WASHINGTON — The parents of Cincinnati native Otto Warmbier, who is imprisoned in North Korea, lashed out at the State Department in a recent interview, saying American diplomats have “absolutely not” helped them win the release of their son.
“President Trump, I ask you, bring my son home,” Fred Warmbier told Fox News on Friday, in the first public remarks he has made since his son was detained more than a year ago. Otto Warmbier, a University of Virginia student from Wyoming, Ohio, was arrested in January 2016 while he was on a tour of North Korea, a ruthlessly repressive dictatorship.
The Warmbiers said neither the Obama administration nor the Trump administration has given them reason to hope their son will be released anytime soon. Instead, they said they’d been told to keep quiet about the situation — advice that experts say is standard protocol in such delicate diplomatic cases.
At the time of his arrest, North Korean officials accused Otto Warmbier of committing a “hostile act” against the country, and in March 2016, the government sentenced him to 15 years hard labor for allegedly trying to steal a political banner.
The Warmbiers said they met with former secretary of State John Kerry last year, but he gave them no indication of progress in their son’s case. Kerry seemed “exasperated and overwhelmed with North Korea,” Fred Warmbier told Fox news host Tucker Carlson.
Asked whether Kerry helped them, Fred Warmbier said, “No, absolutely not.”
He also said no one in the Trump administration has called them, and their main contact with the State Department is a low-level employee at the agency.
“No one’s reached out to us,” he said. “I would have hoped that somebody other than the desk person (at the State Department) … would have reached out and maybe given us some reassurances. But that doesn’t happen in our world.”
Julia Mason, a State Department spokeswoman, said the U.S. government “continues to actively work to secure his earliest possible release.”
But, she said, America’s emissaries in North Korea have not been able to visit Warmbier for more than a year. The U.S. does not have any diplomatic relations with North Korea and instead relies on officials with the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang to serve as their main diplomatic channel.
“A representative from the Swedish Embassy … last visited Mr. Warmbier on March 2, 2016,” Mason said. “We are in regular, close coordination with representatives of the Embassy of Sweden.”
Bill Richardson, a former United Nations ambassador who has worked to release previous American prisoners in North Korea and elsewhere, said there’s no question the State Department is trying to secure Warmbier’s release.
“It’s common for families of political prisoners to feel the government, the State Department, is not doing enough,” he said. “But that is not the case.”
Richardson said he’s using his own private channels to try negotiate Warmbier’s release, an effort he said is “pending” at the moment. “They haven’t said no but they haven’t said yes,” Richardson said.
Ohio lawmakers have also said they’re monitoring the situation and doing what they can to advocate for Warmbier’s release.
“I continue to stay in close touch with the family as well as the administration, and hope that Otto will be released soon,” Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said in a statement Monday.
Otto’s mother, Cindy Warmbier, said State Department officials seemed to blame her and her husband for letting their son travel to North Korea.
“They acted like we were ignorant basically for letting him go,” she said. “And they asked us to stay quiet because they said it’s better for everyone involved.”
The State Department urges Americans not to travel to North Korea, warning of the “serious risk of arrest and long-term detention.” At least 14 American citizens have been detained in North Korea over the last decade, according to the State Department.
“Numerous foreigners have been held in North Korea for extended periods of time without being formally charged with any crimes,” the agency warns in its North Korea travel advisory.
Richardson said the State Department usually asks families not to speak publicly because that could risk inflaming North Korean officials. But he said that’s not always the best course.
“I think sometimes it’s helpful to speak out publicly, both to pressure the country you’re dealing with and your own government, as long as you do it judiciously,” RIchardson said.
In his interview with Fox, Fred Warmbier said he hoped Trump’s secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, would be in a better position to help them than Kerry was.
“I’d like to work with him to bring Otto home,” he said. “He can make a difference here. He’s a doer.”