The father of Otto Warmbier, a 22-year-old American citizen who was imprisoned in North Korea for over 17 months, said during a press conference Thursday that the Obama administration advised him and his wife to stay quiet about the situation facing their son so that they wouldn't "offend" the North Koreans.
Warmbier, a University of Virginia student who grew up in Ohio, was released by the North Korean government earlier this week and is now receiving medical care at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. The North Korean government claims that they released Warmbier, who they charged as a war criminal on accusations that he removed a poster of former dictator Kim Jong Il while on a tour of the isolated nation, for humanitarian reasons due to the fact that he is in a coma.
Although the North Korean regime claims that Warmbier's coma is a result of botulism and a sleeping pill, Warmbier's dad, Fred Warmbier, asserted during the press conference at his son's old high school in Wyoming, Ohio, that his son was brutalized and terrorized by his captors. A hospital spokesperson also stated Thursday that Warmbier had suffered "severe neurological injury."
"Even if you believe their explanation of botulism and a sleeping pill causing the coma, and we don't, there is no excuse for any civilized nation to have kept his condition secret and deny him top-notch medical care for so long," Warmbier told reporters.
"North Korea is a pariah regime, they are brutal and they are terroristic," Warmbier added later in the press conference. "You can't believe anything ... We don't believe anything they say. We see the results of their actions with Otto."
It is believed that Warmbier has been in a coma since shortly after his trial in March 2016.
During his opening remarks, Warmbier explained that when his son was first detained by North Korea in the end of 2015, he and his wife, Cindy, were advised by the "past administration to take a low profile while they worked to obtain his release."
"We did so without resolve. Earlier this year, Cindy and I decided that the time for strategic patience was over. We made a few media appearances and travelled to Washington to meet with Ambassador Joe Yun at the State Department," Warmbier said. "It is my understanding that Ambassador Yun and his team, at the direction of the president [Donald Trump], progressively pursued resolution of the situation. They have our thanks for bringing Otto home."
Later in the press conference, Warmbier declared that "we did what we could."
"We tried to stay low. We were advised that it was important that you don't upset the North Koreans," Warmbier said. "So, we followed that logic and there came a time when that doesn't seem to have any impact. So, we went public with an interview on Tucker Carlson's show and we did a couple of written pieces and very quickly, we have Otto home.
"We [the Warmbier family] are not burdened with whatever North Korea says or does at this point," Warmbier added later when answering a reporter's question. "And, I am so happy for Cindy, myself, my community, this community has been amazing. ... We have been forced to be quiet and act different because we didn't want to offend them."
Warbier was explicitly asked during the press conference whether he believed the Obama administration did enough to help them secure the release of their son.
"Well, the results speak for themselves," Warmbier responded.
Warmbier was also asked if he ever had a face-to-face meeting with President Barack Obama.
"Never, never, absolutely not. No," Warmbier answered.
However, Warmbier said that he did talk with President Trump Wednesday night.
"President Trump called me at say 10 o'clock last night and just wanted to find out how Cindy and I were doing and wanted to find out about Otto," Warmbier explained. "It was a really nice conversation. It was kind. It was, 'Are you taking care of yourself? We worked hard and I am sorry this is the outcome.'"
"He told me a little bit about how Secretary [Rex] Tillerson and Joe Yun teamed up and they made things happen," he continued. "He was very candid and it was a nice conversation. To be honest with you, I had avoided conversations with him because they were to what end. I am dealing with my son. This is about Otto. I did take the call and it was gracious, it was nice and felt good and I thank him for that."
Warmbier added that he is happy to have his son home on "American soil."
Warmbier didn't give any medical update on his son and pointed out that there will be a press conference later in the day Thursday in which doctors will give an update on his son's medical condition.
Warmbier also warned about the dangers of going on tours of North Korea offered by Chinese companies like Young Pioneers Tours.
"The North Koreans lure Americans to travel to North Korea via tour groups that are run out of China who advertise slick ads on the internet proclaiming that 'No American ever gets detained off our tours' and 'This is a safe place to go,'" Warmbier said. "They lure Americans and then they take them hostage and they do things to them. That is what happened to my son. He was taken hostage at the airport as he was trying to leave the country and then, he was put through the trial, as we have all seen."