WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The parents of Otto Warmbier, an American student who died after 17 months in a North Korean prison, hailed on Wednesday new congressional legislation passed in their son’s name that calls for further sanctions on Pyongyang.
Flanked by four Democratic and Republican senators, Fred and Cindy Warmbier commended a provision of the broader National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, for applying pressure on North Korea to change its behavior.
Fred Warmbier told reporters the bill was “very important to our efforts because it gives us more tools to force the North Koreans to engage on some level.”
The event on Capitol Hill came at a time of heightened tensions between Washington and Pyongyang as denuclearization talks begun with a summit last year between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have stalled.
North Korea has conducted a series of weapons tests and resumed personal insults against Trump, with Pyongyang warning it could take an unspecified “new path” if Washington fails to soften its stance before the end of the year.
Otto Warmbier, 22, died on June 19, 2017, shortly after he was flown home to Ohio in a coma after being held by North Korea for 17 months.
“I am still traumatized by what North Korea did to our family and certainly what they did to our son,” Fred Warmbier said.
The NDAA, a broad defense spending bill passed on Tuesday and awaiting Trump’s signature, urges a sweeping approach by the Trump administration to curb North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
The Otto Warmbier North Korea Nuclear Sanctions and Enforcement Act calls for mandatory sanctions on North Korean imports and exports of textiles and coal and other minerals, as well as some petroleum products and crude oil, along with additional sanctions on banks that deal with North Korea.
“My message is to North Korea, like it always is: People matter. Otto matters. We’re never going to let you forget our son,” said Cindy Warmbier. She urged Trump, however, not to “make a bad deal” with North Korea.
Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis; Editing by Matt Spetalnick and Jonathan Oatis