Former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson is demanding answers from Pyongyang after an American held prisoner in North Korea for more than year was returned to the U.S. in a coma last week.
“North Korea has a lot of explaining to do. Why didn’t they notify the United States? Why didn’t they notify proper international medical authorities — the Swedish government that represents us?” Richardson told radio host John Catsimatidis in an interview that aired Sunday on New York’s 970 AM.
“We know very little about this leader Kim Jong Un, except he’s an unpredictable brat, and might be cruel — might be awfully cruel — if our young man was treated the way he was,” added Richardson, who served as governor of New Mexico after leaving the Clinton administration.
Otto Warmbier, a 22-year-old college student, was released by North Korea last week after 17 months in prison. He had been arrested for allegedly attempting to steal a propaganda poster from the hotel he was staying at during a tour of the country.
But upon his release, Warmbier was revealed to have been in a coma since March 2016, a condition that North Korea’s government said was due to taking a sleeping pill after he contracted botulism.
Doctors in Cincinnati are continuing to evaluate Warmbier’s condition, but say he has experienced significant brain damage.
The release and subsequent controversy over Warmbier’s medical condition follows months of heightened tension between the U.S. and North Korea as a result of Pyongyang’s rapidly advancing nuclear and weapons programs.
The Trump administration has sought to put increased pressure on China, Pyongyang’s only major ally, to reign in the reclusive country. But Richardson said that Warmbier’s condition could further complicate relations between the U.S. and North Korea.
“This is not a very good situation to try to improve the relationship with North Korea when they treat our people like this,” he said.