Otto Warmbier died Monday in Ohio, but he was undoubtedly murdered in North Korea. Americans need to muster more anger for North Korea’s treatment of student and fellow citizen Otto Warmbier. After his June 12 release from a brutal and pathetic regime, Warmbier’s condition was announced as “unresponsive wakefulness,” and later clarified by other medical experts as a “persistent vegetative state.” While it may never be known what exactly happened to Warmbier while he was in custody, somehow he was starved of oxygen. USA Today noted, “His situation represents the worst outcome for any American whom North Korea has detained.”Warmbier’s nightmare started in January 2016 when he was detained for allegedly trying to remove a propaganda poster. He entered North Korea via China through “Young Pioneer Tours,” a travel organization that markets their tours of the repressive and secretive nation as “the trip your mother would rather you stay away from.”His family and his British roommate during his North Korean tour deny the charge. In March 2016, a show trial was aired by the state news agency where Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor. This is the same news agency that declares, “There is no ‘human rights issue’ in this country, as everyone leads the most dignified and happy life.” However, the reality for its subjects is the world’s largest concentration camp. The government enslaves hundreds of thousands, while starving millions.Unsurprisingly, Wambier was used as an unwilling puppet for the regime’s propaganda purposes. “I never, never should have allowed myself to be lured by the United States administration to commit a crime in this country,” Warmbier declared during his confession at the show trial. “I wish that the United States administration never manipulate people like myself in the future to commit crimes against foreign countries.” He was then seen begging for forgiveness, adding it was the “worst mistake of my life.”Some pundits and commentators blamed Warmbier, who was then a student at the University of Virginia, for his plight. They essentially said anybody who goes to North Korea deserves whatever fate they receive. While there is not an official travel ban for Americans in North Korea, the State Department strongly suggests against visiting since they can’t guarantee a return for those detained. Whatever lapses in judgement Warmbier made, he certainly did not deserve death.Warmbier’s father credited President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for helping to secure his son’s release, where at least he spent his last days with the ones who love him and took care of him best. “Otto had been terrorized and brutalized for 18 months by a pariah regime in North Korea, we are thrilled to have him home,” his father recently told Tucker Carlson before his son’s death.Warmbier’s father, who appears remarkably stoic but is certainly broken inside, was asked about what lesson can be taken from his son’s detainment. He mostly demurred, saying that is for others to decide. However, the main lesson is that it is long past time to get even tougher on North Korea’s brutal and criminal regime. After Warmbier’s death, Trump condemned North Korea’s “brutality” and lack of respect “for the rule of law” and “human decency.”There is lots of talk now, but more action is required. While our government is rightly worried about North Korea’s nuclear capabilities, too little attention and punishment is applied considering their massive human rights abuses.Sanctions must be tightened even further. Our government should put additional ultimatums on China to help rein in North Korea, perhaps as a requirement to keep doing business with the United States. China must be pressured economically to implement an oil embargo against the rogue and petulant nation. While we don’t have to strike militarily, we should not avoid a conflict if unnecessarily provoked. Warmbier was an American citizen, and his status as such demands a measured but forceful response. His death is another symbol of a sick and twisted dictatorship that has been allowed to exist for far too long.Ray Nothstine is a member of the North State Journal’s editorial board, separate from the news staff. Unlike other newspapers, the North State Journal does not publish unsigned editorials; the author or authors of every editorial, letter, op-ed, and column is prominently displayed. To submit a letter or op-ed, see our submission guidelines.
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