Spotlight: Trump claims progress on DPRK-related issue after judge ruling over Warmbier's death

Source: Xinhua| 2018-12-25 11:10:38|Editor: ZX
Video PlayerClose

WASHINGTON, Dec. 24 (Xinhua) -- Despite an earlier ruling of a U.S. judge against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) over the case of Otto Warmbier, President Donald Trump said here on Monday that progress is being made on the issues related to the Asian nation.

Trump posted on twitter a picture of him sitting at a desk and reading a piece of paper, while Stephen Biegun, the U.S. special representative on the DPRK-related issues, who just came back from a visit to South Korea, was standing beside him.

Trump tweeted that "Christmas Eve briefing with my team working on North Korea -- Progress being made."

"Looking forward to my next summit with Chairman Kim!" he said, referring to the top leader of the DPRK, Kim Jong Un.

Earlier in the day, a U.S. federal court judge ruled that the DPRK should pay over 500 million U.S. dollars for the death of a U.S. citizen, Otto Warmbier, local media reported.

Chief Judge Beryl Howell of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has ruled that the DPRK should pay the money to Warmbier's parents, in a measure to hold the Asian nation accountable for the death of their son.

Warmbier's parents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier, have been seeking more than 1 billion dollars in damages from the DPRK in a lawsuit reportedly filed in April, saying the massive financial penalty would tell Pyongyang that it cannot take U.S. citizens hostage.

However, the Fox News said that the ruling is largely symbolic since the DPRK is highly unlikely to accept or obey it.

Warmbier was an American university student who was arrested and sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment on suspicion of stealing a propaganda poster during a visit to the DPRK in 2016.

He was released in June 2017 and died six days after returning to the United States.

The DPRK said that Warmbier's death was a "mystery" as his health indicators and examination results were all normal when he left the country.

After Warmbier's death, the Trump administration relisted the DPRK as a state sponsor of terrorism in November 2017.

However, the relations between the DPRK and the United States have improved since earlier this year. The first-ever summit between Trump and Kim was held in Singapore in June. In a joint statement released after the meeting, the United States agreed to provide security guarantee to the DPRK in return for Pyongyang's commitment to denuclearization.

Although differences between the two sides remained over key issues like the scale of denuclearization, U.S. sanctions, and whether to issue a war-ending declaration, momentum for talks continued.

Trump revealed on Dec. 1 that his second meeting with Kim, was likely to happen in January or February next year.

In the latest move of the Trump administration concerning the DPRK, U.S. envoy Steve Biegun said on Dec. 19 at the Incheon International Airport in South Korea that he and South Korean officials would resume discussions on how to work together to engage the DPRK "in a manner that will help us move forward and move beyond the 70 years of hostility that have divided the Korean Peninsula, the Korean people, and the United States and the DPRK."

"Toward that end, upon my return to Washington, D.C., next week, I have been directed by Secretary of State Pompeo to review U.S. policy on humanitarian assistance provided to the DPRK by private and religious American organizations," he said.

Biegun said he understands many humanitarian aid organizations operating in the DPRK are concerned that strict enforcement of international sanctions has occasionally impeded the delivery of legitimate humanitarian assistance to the Korean people.

"I will be sitting down with American aid groups early in the New Year to discuss how we can better ensure the delivery of appropriate assistance, particularly through the course of the coming winter," he said.

Biegun told the media that the United States will also "review American citizen travel to the DPRK for purposes of facilitating the delivery of aid and ensuring that monitoring in line with international standards can occur."

Last year, the United States began to impose strict limits on the approval of travel of U.S. citizens to the DPRK, which may have impacted the delivery of humanitarian assistance, he said.

After the DPRK released an American held for an alleged illegal entrance to the country in November,the United States came to have "greater confidence about the safety and security of Americans traveling to the DPRK," Biegun said.

"The government of the DPRK handled the review of the American citizen's expulsion expeditiously and with great discretion and sensitivity through diplomatic channels," the U.S. envoy added.

Washington believes "the conditions are right for us to reevaluate how these policies are implemented, and we plan to do so early next year," he added.

Seoul, in its initiative to enhance ties with Pyongyang, has reportedly pressured the Trump administration into lifting some of the current sanctions against its northern neighbor so as not to step up the inter-Korean economic cooperation.