© 2022 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Portman: Direct Talks Might Have Saved Otto Warmbier

By M.L. Schultze, WKSU

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) says direct communication, like the kind President  Donald Trump just had with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un,  might have saved the life of Otto Warmbier.  The president, in statements after his historic meeting with Kim, said the summit might not have happened if it wasn't for the death of Warmbier, who was imprisoned in North Korea for 17 months.  He said the college student "did not die in vain."

Portman, who helped negotiateWarmbier's release, told reporters in a conference call that he believes the president was referring to the shift in talks from the diplomatic corps to the North Korean security forces when the president said Warmbier's death led to breakthroughs in the Korean talks. 

"And that's what caused the breakthrough of us finding better to at least finding out what really happened to him and getting him home," said Portman.  "It was too late and the result was tragic, but it was better to at least know what the situation was in my view and maybe the view of the family." 

Portman said he also hopes the president meant that military exercises with South Korea have been delayed, not cancelled, pending the outcome of further talks with North Korea about its nuclear capability.

Fred and Cindy Warmbier, Otto's parents, released a statement saying they appreciated President Trump's comments about their family and hope something positive comes of the summit.  They're suing the North Korean government over their son's death

Copyright 2021 90.3 WCPN ideastream. To see more, visit 90.3 WCPN ideastream.