North Korea insisted the US agree to pay $2 million in medical costs in 2017 before it released detained American college student Otto Warmbier while he was in a coma, a former US official said Thursday. An envoy sent to North Korea to retrieve the 21-year-old student signed an agreement to pay the $2 million on instructions passed down from President Trump, the former official told the AP, speaking on condition of anonymity. The bill went to the Treasury Department, where it remained—unpaid—throughout 2017, per the Washington Post. CNN reported the bill has not been paid since then.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the administration does not comment on hostage negotiations. US policy is to refuse to pay ransom for the release of Americans detained abroad. Joseph Yun, the US envoy, told CNN he could not confirm the payment report, saying, "These are diplomatic exchanges and negotiations." Fred Warmbier, Otto’s father, said he was never told about the hospital bill, per the Post. He said it sounded like a "ransom" for his son. While the majority of Americans detained by North Korea have been released in relatively good condition, Warmbier, a University of Virginia student, died last June after he was flown home comatose after 17 months in captivity.
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