Otto Warmbier is now home, after being released from a North Korean prison after 18 months. But he’s returned home in a coma. His father speaks of his love and support from the community.
CINCINNATI — At first glance, the United States seemingly can’t do anything about North Korea’s treatment of college student Otto Warmbier.
Three other Americans are detained there, and officials don’t want to jeopardize their safety. Plus, the unpredictable regime has nuclear weapons, and the U.S. doesn’t want to provoke use of those missiles on ally South Korea.
“It’s a matter of leverage. And we’ve got fairly minimal leverage,” said Richard Harknett, head of the University of Cincinnati’s political science department. “This is the most sanctioned country, practically, in the world. There’s not much else we can do.”
But some say Americans, particularly those in government, can do more:
• They can speak out publicly about North Korea instead of staying quiet.
• They can put public pressure on North Korea’s ally, China.
• They can change the long-term policy under both Republican and Democratic administrations of silence.
• They can be more aggressive to bring others home to prevent them from suffering severe brain damage.
After a year of remaining silent, Warmbier’s parents began appearing on prime-time news shows, demanding that more be done to bring home their son.
That may have put more pressure on both Washington and Pyongyang, but complaints from high-ranking officials would have worked better, said Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch. Governments respond to “pressure, embarrassment and exposure.”