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Otto Warmbier’s parents ask court for seized N. Korean ship as ‘wrongful death’ payment

Otto Warmbier’s parents ask court for seized N. Korean ship as ‘wrongful death’ payment
The parents of late US student Otto Warmbier have mixed personal tragedy with politics, asking a court for the North Korean trade ship the US captured in May to be part of the $501 million compensation for their son’s death.

The Warmbiers’ motion accuses Pyongyang of being reluctant to pay $501 million in damages which the student’s family was awarded by a US court in December, after it found North Korea “liable for torture, hostage taking and extrajudicial killing” of Warmbier, who died in June 2017 a day after he was flown in from North Korea to the US upon his release.

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Pointing out that Pyongyang has never attempted to negotiate a settlement, the Warmbiers say they were “left to chase down the assets of North Korea to recover what they can for torture and death of their son at the hands of North Korea’s dictator.”

Being unable to force North Korea, which does not recognize the extraterritorial powers of the US judicial system, to pay up, the parents went after the Wise Honest, a North Korean cargo ship which has been in US custody since May for violating sanctions.

The ship was handed over to the US by Indonesia a year after it detained the vessel off its shores with a $3 million coal shipment – which is only a miniscule portion of what Pyongyang “owes” the Warmbiers. Still, the family said in the statement they are determined to “work tirelessly to seize North Korean assets wherever they may be found.”

The US authorities say Warmbier, 22 at the time, was tortured during his 17-month detention in a North Korean work camp in 2016, which left him in a coma. Pyongyang has denied the allegations of abuse. A popular theory is that Warmbier contracted a form of food poisoning and then took a sleeping pill and never woke up.

The exact cause of death still remains a mystery, since his parents denied an autopsy of his body, while a coroner’s report claimed that the man’s body and skin were in “excellent condition.” 

The new twist in what has become a highly-politicized case comes as Washington and Pyongyang attempt to revive stalled denuclearization talks, primarily through the newly-found rapport between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

The impromptu summit between the two leaders in the demilitarized zone on Sunday was all handshakes and smiles, and saw Trump become the first US president to set foot on North Korean soil.

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