U.S. college student Otto Warmbier died just days after returning to the United States after spending 17 months imprisoned in North Korea, but the country’s state-run media believes the real victim in Warmbier’s death has been overlooked.
“To make it clear, we are the biggest victim of this incident and there would be no more foolish judgment than to think we do not know how to calculate gains and losses,” a spokesperson for North Korea’s foreign ministry said in comments published Friday by Korean Central News Agency, adding that allegations that North Korean officials were to blame for his death are part of a U.S. “frontal challenge” and a “political plot.”
Warmbier, who was imprisoned on charges that he attempted to steal a propaganda banner while touring North Korea, was already in a coma when the hermit kingdom’s officials returned him to the United States last week. Though his family said they were told Warmbier had fallen into the coma after contracting botulism and taking a sleeping pill, U.S. doctors believed that Warmbier had been beaten and suffered massive brain damage.
“The awful torturous mistreatment our son experienced at the hands of the North Koreans ensured that no other outcome was possible beyond the sad one we experienced today,” reads a statement issued by Warmbier’s family after his death.
The North Korean official denied that the country had tortured Warmbier, contending that the 22-year-old left North Korea in “his normal state of health indicators,” and that his death is a “mystery.”
The spokesperson continued, “The smear campaign against [North Korea] staged in the U.S. compels us to make firm determination that humanitarianism and benevolence for the enemy are a taboo and we should further sharpen the blade of the law.”
North Korea is currently holding three other U.S. citizens.