Washington, April 26 (IANS) North Korea presented the US a $2 million bill for the hospital care of Otto Warmbier, the American student who was held as a prisoner by Pyongyang, and insisted Washington to sign a pledge to pay it before releasing him in 2017, the media reported on Friday.
The bill was handed to Joseph Yun, the former State Department Special Representative for North Korea who traveled to Pyongyang in June 2017 to bring Warmbier home, informed sources told CNN on Thursday.
Warmbier was in a comatose state at the time of his release from North Korean custody and died a few days after returning to the US.
Yun, who had orders from President Donald Trump to bring Warmbier home, signed the bill after informing then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson about it. Tillerson then told Trump about the bill, the source said.
The Trump administration has not paid this bill, another source familiar with the matter told CNN Thursday, adding that North Korea did not raise the issue as it sought to begin easing the tensions with the US in 2018 nor when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo negotiated the release of three Americans that same year.
Earlier this month, at an event attended by Warmbier’s family, Pompeo dismissed the idea of the US paying ransom for hostages.
Reached by CNN on Thursday, Yun said he could not confirm the report because of the sensitive nature of the discussions.
“I cannot confirm that… These are diplomatic exchanges and negotiations that I do not confirm.”
When contacted, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a written response to CNN: “We do not comment on hostage negotiations, which is why they have been so successful during this administration.”
The State Department declined to comment and referred to Sanders’ response.
Warmbier was detained by North Korean officials in January 2016 while attempting to return to the US from a tour of the country. He was returned to his family “with severe brain damage and in a non-responsive state” on June 13, 2017, and died six days later.