North Korea says it’s ‘biggest victim’ in US student’s death

By KIM TONG-HYUNG

Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea on Friday called itself the “biggest victim” in the death of an American student who was detained for more than a year and died days after being released in a coma.

The North’s official Korean Central News Agency denied that North Korea cruelly treated or tortured Otto Warmbier and accused the United States and South Korea of a smear campaign that insulted what it called its “humanitarian” treatment of him.

The comments published by KCNA were North Korea’s first reaction to Otto Warmbier’s death in a U.S. hospital Monday after it released him for what it called humanitarian reasons.

Doctors at the hospital said Warmbier had suffered a severe neurological injury from an unknown cause. Relatives say they were told the 22-year-old University of Virginia student had been in a coma since shortly after he was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in North Korea in March 2016.

His family and others have blamed North Korea for his condition.

Warmbier was accused of stealing a propaganda poster. Through statements on KCNA, North Korea said it dealt with him according to its domestic laws and international standards.

“Although we had no reason at all to show mercy to such a criminal of the enemy state, we provided him with medical treatments and care with all sincerity on humanitarian basis until his return to the U.S., considering that his health got worse,” the agency quoted an unidentified Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying.

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