WASHINGTON, U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday denied a news report claiming that his administration promised to pay North Korea US$2 million for the release of an American prisoner in 2017.
The Washington Post reported Thursday that North Korea had asked a U.S. envoy to sign a pledge agreeing to the payment before it released American college student Otto Warmbier.
Warmbier had been in hospital in the North for more than a year after falling into a coma. He died shortly after he was flown back to the U.S. in June 2017.
The North demanded the money to cover his medical costs, according to The Post.
“No money was paid to North Korea for Otto Warmbier, not two Million Dollars, not anything else,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “This is not the Obama Administration that paid 1.8 Billion Dollars for four hostages, or gave five terroist (sic) hostages plus, who soon went back to battle, for traitor Sgt. Bergdahl!”
The U.S. president has previously touted his administration’s success in securing the release of American prisoners around the world, claiming that unlike previous administrations, his never paid any ransom money.
Bergdahl is an American soldier who was captured and held by the Taliban from 2009 to 2014 after he deserted his post in Afghanistan.
He was released in exchange for five Taliban members who were being held at the detention center at Guantanamo Bay.
In a separate tweet, Trump quoted an unidentified person, writing: “‘President Donald J. Trump is the greatest hostage negotiator that I know of in the history of the United States. 20 hostages, many in impossible circumstances, have been released in last two years. No money was paid.’ Cheif (sic) Hostage Negotiator, USA!”
Trump told a press conference after his second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Vietnam in February that he raised the issue of Warmbier’s death during their talks.
“He tells me he didn’t know about it, and I take him at his word,” he said at the time.
Speaking to reporters at the White House later Friday, Trump again dismissed the report as “fake news.”
“We did not pay money for our great Otto. There was no money paid,” he said. “I haven’t paid money for any hostage. And I’ve gotten approximately I think it’s 20 or 21 out. 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.”
Source: Yonhap news Agency