North Korea reportedly demanded $2 million for the release of American Otto Warmbier in 2017, citing Warmbier's alleged medical costs. Warmbier died shortly after being released.
What happened with Otto Warmbier?
Warmbier was a 22-year-old college student who was arrested in North Korea in 2016 and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor. He was accused of stealing a propaganda poster while on a tour.
He was finally released 17 months later, but when he arrived in the US, he was in a coma. He never woke up and died six days later.
In a lawsuit they filed against the North Korean government, Warmbier's parents said that their son was blind, deaf, had damaged teeth, and was making "inhuman noises" like "howling" and "jerking violently."
What happened now?
According to the Washington Post and CNN, multiple sources familiar with the situation said that the North Korean government had demanded that the United States agree to pay $2 million in alleged medical bills for Warmbier. It's not clear what treatment they claimed that the money was for.
According to these reports, the U.S. State Department's Special Representative for North Korea, Joseph Yun, was told he had to sign something before Warmbier could be released promising that the payment would be made. Yun reportedly asked the Trump administration for permission to make this deal, which former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and President Donald Trump gave him.
Despite signing the agreement, this bill has reportedly never been paid. It was also reportedly not discussed during Trump's summits with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un in Singapore or Hanoi, Vietnam.
The White House told the Post that it does "not comment on hostage negotiations, which is why they have been so successful during this administration."
Both the Trump administration and Yun have refused to comment on these reports to CNN or the Post.