South Korean President Moon Jae-In said Tuesday that North Korea bears a “heavy responsibility” for the death of US student Otto Warmbier and described its regime as irrational.
The 22-year-old, who was released in a coma last week after nearly 18 months in detention in North Korea, died on Monday — prompting President Donald Trump to slam the “brutal regime” in Pyongyang.
He had been sentenced for stealing a political poster from his hotel.
Warmbier was medically evacuated to the United States on Tuesday last week, suffering from severe brain damage. He died six days later surrounded by relatives in his hometown of Cincinnati.
“Yes, this had happened while Mr Warmbier was in the detention of North Korean authorities,” Moon told CBS.
“We cannot know for sure that North Korea killed Mr Warmbier but I believe it is quite clear that they have a heavy responsibility in the process that led to his death,” the president added.
North Korea has claimed Warmbier fell into a coma soon after he was sentenced last year, saying he had contracted botulism and been given a sleeping pill.
Medical tests in the United States offered no conclusive evidence as to the cause of his neurological injuries, and no evidence of a prior botulism infection.
Asked how the Warmbier case would affect Moon’s efforts to engage North Korea as he has said he wants to, the president added: “I believe we must now have the perception that North Korea is an irrational regime.
“Working with such a country, we must achieve the goal of the complete dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear program,” Moon said.