In a striking contradiction of President Donald Trump, National security adviser John Bolton confirmed a Washington Post story that the Trump Administration signed a document guaranteeing to pay North Korea $2 million for the hospital bill of Otto Warmbier. Just a couple days before, Trump declared the story to be “fake news.” While no money has yet to be paid, we agreed to pay a ridiculous amount to North Korea for abusing a U.S. citizen and leaving him near death. It is hard not to see the promise as a payment for an effective hostage.
The Post correctly reported that it was unclear whether money was paid, but the story was the surprising (and disturbing) news that the United States would pledge to pay North Korea $2 million for its mistreatment of a U.S. citizen.
Trump responded by declaring the story to fake and said “We did not pay money for our great Otto. There was no money paid. We don’t pay money for hostages. The Otto case was a very unusual case but I just want to let you know, no money was paid for Otto.”
The story was not fake. The Post reported that a pledge was made and it was unclear if the money was paid. Bolton then confirmed to Chris Wallace on Fox Sunday that U.S. official Joseph Yun did he sign a document pledging the money in order to get him out. Bolton then insisted that no money was paid and “that’s the key point.”
I am not sure many citizens would agree. The U.S. still promised to pay money to get our citizen back. The fact that we apparently broke our promise does not improve the matter in my view. The U.S. should not make agreements with other countries unless it is prepared to meet those obligations. In this case, it is an obligation that should never have been made in the first place. It is true that “we don’t pay money for hostages” but that is precisely what we agreed to do. Moreover, Trump himself acknowledged that such a payment would be paying for a hostage.
So we have confirmation that: (1) we agreed to pay North Korea $2 million for a citizen; (2) we broke our signed agreement; and (3) President Trump falsely denied an accurate story.