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Trump attempts to clarify controversial remarks about North Korea and Otto Warmbier

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He says his words were 'misinterpreted'

American student Otto Frederick Warmbier, center, arrives at a court for his trial in Pyongyang, capital of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, on March 16, 2015. (Xinhua/Lu Rui via Getty Images)

President Donald Trump said Friday that his comments about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Otto Warmbier, an American student who was detained in North Korea for nearly a year and a half, were misinterpreted.

Trump was widely criticized for saying he didn't believe Kim had any knowledge of Warmbier's mistreatment in detention. Warmbier was released and returned to the United States in a coma in 2017, and died shortly after coming home.

"I don't believe he knew about it," Trump said of Kim on Thursday. "He tells me that he didn't know about it, and I will take him at his word."

Warmbier's parents were among those who refuted Trump's claim.

"Kim and his evil regime are responsible for the death of our son Otto," they said. "Kim and his evil regime are responsible for unimaginable cruelty and inhumanity. No excuses or lavish praise can change that."

Trump responded to criticism on Twitter on Friday.

"I never like being misinterpreted, but especially when it comes to Otto Warmbier and his great family," Trump wrote. "Remember, I got Otto out along with three others. The previous Administration did nothing, and he was taken on their watch. Of course I hold North Korea responsible for Otto's mistreatment and death. Most important, Otto Warmbier will not have died in vain. Otto and his family have become a tremendous symbol of strong passion and strength, which will last for many years into the future. I love Otto and think of them often!"

Trump's Twitter statement noticeably does not specifically address whether he stands by his claim that Kim had no knowledge of what was happening to Warmbier when he was detained. Throughout the summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, Trump was complimentary of Kim as a leader.

The summit ended Thursday without a deal in place for North Korea to give up its nuclear capabilities.

Warmbier was arrested for taking down a propaganda poster in a Pyongyang hotel in January 2016. He was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for the violation.

He was released in June 2017, but died only six days after getting back to Cincinnati, Ohio. The coroner cited lack of oxygen and blood to the brain as the cause of death, but the exact cause of his injuries is unknown.

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