SINGAPORE (FOX19) - The tragic death of Wyoming High School graduate and North Korea detainee Otto Warmbier led to the historic nuclear summit between the U.S. and Pyongyang, President Donald Trump said Tuesday.
Trump and North Korea's Kim Jong Un concluded their extraordinary meeting by signing a document in which Trump pledged "security guarantees" to the North and Kim recommitted to the "complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."
"Otto Warmbier is very special person and he will be for a long time in my life," Trump said in a news conference from Singapore after the summit ended.
"His parents are good friends of mine. I think without Otto, this would not have happened.
"Something happened from that day. It was a terrible thing. It was brutal," the President said.
"But a lot of people started to focus in what was going on, including North Korea. I really think Otto is someone who did not die in vain. I told that to his parents. A special young man and I have to say special parents, special people. Otto did not die in vain. He had a lot to do with us being here today."
Otto's parents, Fred and Cindy Warmier released this statement:
U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) also evoked Warmbier's memory Tuesday. He said in a statement he long has called for direct talks between the U.S. and North Korea with the goal of achieving a peaceful solution that includes North Korea giving up its nuclear weapons.
"I am hopeful that the negotiations can achieve these goals. In the past, however, North Korea has used talks to stall while continuing its nuclear and missile programs, and empty promises cannot buy any more time," his statement reads.
"For nearly 18 months I worked to help secure the release of Otto Warmbier. Nearly one year ago, I joined Fred and Cindy Warmbier in Cincinnati as they welcomed Otto home from North Korea, and it's a constant reminder to me about the evil nature of this regime.
"Following this historic summit I remain skeptical but hopeful that this new dialogue can translate into meaningful progress. I strongly believe that the president's maximum pressure campaign must remain in place until North Korea truly changes course and ends its dangerous nuclear weapons program."
Warmbier, 22, was accused in January 2016 of trying to steal a propaganda banner while visiting the country.
He was imprisoned by the North Korean government and suffered severe brain damage, but there were no signs of physical trauma.
Warmbier was evacuated in a coma on June 13, 2017, and returned home to his family in Cincinnati.
He was taken straight from Lunken Airport to University of Cincinnati Medical Center, where he died six days later.
His family has said North Korea "destroyed" him and sued North Korea alleging the "rogue regime took Otto hostage for its own wrongful ends and brutally tortured and murdered him."
Hamilton County Coroner Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco listed Warmbier's cause of death as brain damage from oxygen deprivation through "an unknown insult more than a year prior to death."
But Sammarco said it would be impossible to determine how Warmbier received the traumatic brain injury. When asked if he was tortured, she said she can't be sure what caused the lack of oxygen to the brain.
"We don't know what happened to him to cause that brain damage," Sammarco has said. "That's the bottom line."
The President announced several major developments from the extraordinary summit:
- Kim said he is destroying a major missile engine testing site. Trump said Kim informed him of this development during the historic nuclear summit they held Tuesday in Singapore. Trump described the destruction of the site as a “big thing.”
- He will be ending joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea.
- He will invite Kim to visit the White House at the “appropriate time," and Kim has accepted.
- Trump said he is open to visiting Kim some day in Pyongyang.