President Trump said Tuesday that U.S. student Otto Warmbier, who was held captive by North Korea and died soon after his return, played a major role in creating the impetus for his historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“I think without Otto this would not have happened,” Trump told reporters while taking questions in Singapore after meeting with Kim. “Something happened from that day — it was a terrible thing, it was brutal. But a lot of people started to focus on what was going on, including North Korea.”
Trump said Warmbier did not die in vain because he led to a larger discussion between the U.S. and North Korea, and made diplomacy between the two nations a possibility.
“I really think that Otto is someone who did not die in vain. I told this to his parents,” Trump said. “Otto did not die in vain. He had a lot to do with us being here today.”
Trump said one of the reasons why he feels Kim is a “very talented” man is because he took over North Korea at the young age of 26 and was “able to run it tough.”
When asked why Trump could call someone who killed his own family members and was responsible for the death of Warmbier talented, Trump said, “I didn’t say he was nice… about it.”
Warmbier was a 22-year-old American student from the University of Virginia visiting North Korea in 2016. He was detained and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor after security footage emerged of him attempting to steal a banner hanging in his hotel.
He was returned to his family in the U.S. last June in a comatose state and died a week later.