CHICAGO — Otto Warmbier, the US student released in a coma last week after nearly 18 months in detention in North Korea, died on Monday.
The 22-year-old was medically evacuated to the United States last Tuesday, suffering from severe brain damage. He died six days later surrounded by relatives in his hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio.
The young man was on a tourist trip when he was arrested and sentenced in March last year to 15 years hard labour for stealing a political poster from a North Korean hotel, a punishment the United States decried as far out of proportion to his alleged crime.
Trump lashed out at Pyongyang following news of his death.
"Bad things happened but at least we got him home to his parents," he said during a White House event.
In a separate written statement, Trump said, "Otto’s fate deepens my Administration’s determination to prevent such tragedies from befalling innocent people at the hands of regimes that do not respect the rule of law or basic human decency."
Doctors last week revealed that Warmbier had suffered severe neurological injuries, and described him as being in a state of "unresponsive wakefulness", opening his eyes and blinking, but showing no signs of understanding language or of being aware of his surroundings.
His family said on Monday that he first appeared anguished when he first arrived home, but died "at peace".
North Korea claimed Warmbier fell into a coma soon after he was sentenced last year, saying the college student had contracted botulism and been given a sleeping pill.
Medical tests carried out last week in the United States offered no conclusive evidence as to the cause of his neurological injuries, and no evidence of a prior botulism infection. Warmbier’s doctors said he had suffered extensive tissue loss in all regions of his brain, but showed no signs of physical trauma.
They said that given his young age, Warmbier’s severe brain injury was most likely caused by cardiopulmonary arrest cutting the blood supply to the brain. — AFP