No change of strat­egy on North Korea af­ter stu­dent’s death.

Of­fi­cials re­quest cit­i­zen travel ban to North Korea

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY GUY TAY­LOR

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion showed lit­tle sign of chang­ing its strat­egy to­ward North Korea on Tues­day, de­spite pres­sure from Capi­tol Hill for a mus­cu­lar action fol­low­ing the death of Amer­i­can stu­dent Otto F. Warm­bier.

State Depart­ment sources said the case of Mr. Warm­bier, the 22-year-old Univer­sity Vir­ginia stu­dent who died Mon­day of wounds suf­fered dur­ing his de­ten­tion in North Korean, has pumped ur­gency into the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s con­sid­er­a­tion of a ban on travel by U.S. cit­i­zens to the iso­lated na­tion.

But there was no in­di­ca­tion that such a ban, which Secretary of State Rex Tiller­son has been con­sid­er­ing since April, is im­mi­nent. And the White House sug­gested it has no im­me­di­ate plan be­yond pro­ceed­ing with ex­ist­ing sanc­tions against North Korea and con­tin­u­ing to push on China to con­tain Py­ongyang.

“We will con­tinue to ap­ply eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal pres­sure and try to con­tinue to work with our al­lies,” said White House spokesman Sean Spicer. “We’ve had, I think, pos­i­tive move­ment on China … We’ll con­tinue to work with them and oth­ers to put the ap­pro­pri­ate pres­sure on North Korea.”

He added that the threat posed by Py­ongyang will take cen­ter stage when Mr. Tiller­son and De­fense Secretary James Mat­tis hold talks with their Chi­nese coun­ter­parts in Wash­ing­ton on Wed­nes­day — the first of a slate of U.S.China diplo­matic and se­cu­rity meet­ings that were set in mo­tion af­ter Mr. Trump met with Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping in April.

Mr. Trump, how­ever, sent mixed sig­nals Tues­day on China’s role when he tweeted, “While I greatly ap­pre­ci­ate the ef­forts of Pres­i­dent Xi & China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out. At least I know China tried!”

With re­gard to Mr. Warm­bier, Mr. Trump said in the Oval Of­fice that the young man’s death af­ter de­ten­tion in North Korea was “a to­tal dis­grace.”

“That should never ever be al­lowed to hap­pen,” said Mr. Trump, who then added — in an ap­par­ent re­buke of his pre­de­ces­sor, Pres­i­dent Obama — that if Mr. Warm­bier had been “brought home sooner, I think the re­sult would have been a lot dif­fer­ent.”

Mr. Trump’s com­ments came against a back­drop of frus­tra­tion on Capi­tol Hill over the White House’s han­dling of the lat­est flash point with North Korea, de­spite the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s claim that the era of “strate­gic pa­tience” — a ref­er­ence to the long-held U.S. pol­icy of try­ing to pres­sure Py­ongyang through sanc­tions and diplo­macy — is over.

“The United States can­not and should not tol­er­ate the mur­der of its cit­i­zens by hos­tile pow­ers,” Sen. John McCain, Ari­zona Repub­li­can, said on Mon­day night, af­ter news of Mr. Warm­bier’s death made international head­lines.

The 22-year-old died Mon­day in his home state of Ohio, his fam­ily said, just days af­ter be­ing re­leased in a coma by North Korea. He had been vis­it­ing North Korea on a tour group when he was de­tained, sen­tenced to 15 years hard la­bor for sub­ver­sion, and held for more than 17 months.

Out­rage over the case grew last week when U.S. doc­tors as­sessed that Mr. Warm­bier had sus­tained a catas­trophic brain in­jury dur­ing his cap­tiv­ity — and frus­tra­tions reached a boil­ing point fol­low­ing his death on Mon­day.

House For­eign Re­la­tions Chair­man Ed­ward R. Royce, Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can, said the U.S. must ban tourist travel to North Korea on U.S. pass­ports, claim­ing that “travel pro­pa­ganda lures far too many peo­ple” to the iso­lated na­tion.

North Korea, added Rep. Christo­pher H. Smith, New Jer­sey Repub­li­can, rep­re­sents “a clear na­tional se­cu­rity threat that re­quires action.”

U.S. of­fi­cials, mean­while, have ex­pressed frus­tra­tion that three other Amer­i­can cit­i­zens — busi­ness­man Kim Dong-chul, and aca­demics Kim Hak­song and Kim Sang-duk, also known as “Tony Kim” — are be­ing held by North Korea.

In a bizarre twist, for­mer Amer­i­can bas­ket­ball star Den­nis Rod­man trav­eled last week for a fifth time to North Korea, where he re­port­edly gifted Pres­i­dent Trump’s book, “Trump: The Art of the Deal” to the na­tion’s leader Kim Jong-un.

State Depart­ment spokes­woman Heather Nauert told re­porters Tues­day that of­fi­cials were “con­tin­u­ing to eval­u­ate” whether to im­pose a re­stric­tion on pri­vate travel by Amer­i­cans to North Korea.

“The secretary has the author­ity to do it, he just has not come to a con­clu­sion about how this would po­ten­tially work,” she said. “We have a great deal of re­solve to try to han­dle the sit­u­a­tion and try to hold North Korea re­spon­si­ble.”

Short of a to­tal travel ban, Mr. McCain said Tues­day that prospec­tive Amer­i­can trav­el­ers com­plete a form declar­ing they won’t hold the U.S. gov­ern­ment re­spon­si­ble for what hap­pens if they go to North Korea.

“If peo­ple are that stupid that they still want to go to that coun­try, then at least they as­sume the re­spon­si­bil­ity for their wel­fare,” the se­na­tor said.


Amer­i­can stu­dent Otto Warm­bier died in Ohio just a few days af­ter be­ing re­leased from North Korea in a coma. He was held in North Korea for more than 17 months.

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