North Korea faced a stinging indictment Tuesday, not from President Donald Trump, but from the parents of Otto Warmbier, the American man who died soon after the rogue nation released him from captivity in June.
“North Korea is not a victim, they are terrorists. They purposefully and intentionally injured Otto,” his father, Fred Warmbier, told Fox & Friends in an interview in which he described his son’s injuries in graphic detail.
North Korea officials detained tourist Otto Warmbier in March 2016, accused him of attempting to steal a propaganda poster from his Pyongyang hotel, and sentenced him to 15 years of hard labor for crimes against the state, according to the Los Angeles Times. He was imprisoned for 17 months and freed in a coma.
Otto Warmbier, a 22-year-old University of Virginia student, died June 19 after he had been released a week earlier and returned home. Doctors at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center where he died said he had suffered severe brain damage, but they could not definitively say whether torture played a role.
Related: North Korea: How Obama, Bush, Clinton dealt with the rogue nation
Details of his condition were largely unknown until Tuesday when his parents, Fred and Cindy, described the first time they saw their son when he arrived in a plane, and they heard “this howling, involuntary, inhuman sound.”
“Otto had a shaved head, he had a feeding tube coming out of his nose, he was staring blankly into space, jerking violently,” Fred said about his son. “He was blind. He was deaf. As we looked at him and tried to comfort him, it looked like someone had taken a pair of pliers and rearranged his bottom teeth.”
Update: After the interview, the Hamilton County Coroner’s office disputed some of the details Warmbier’s parents described on television, saying only that “there wasn’t any evidence of trauma” to the teeth or jawbone, Dr. Lakshmi Kode Sammarco told CNN.
However, the interview hit a nerve for many people watching, including Trump who later tweeted, “Otto was tortured beyond belief by North Korea.”
Those reactions mirrored how many Americans have reacted since Warmbier’s release three months ago, and they only added to anxiety over Trump’s war of words with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in recent weeks.
Related: North Korea: a timeline of Jong Un's aggression since January
On Monday, North Korea’s foreign minister accused Trump of declaring war via Twitter — the White House responded by calling it “absurd” — and also said it would shoot down U.S. planes even though they flew outside the country’s airspace.
Related: Kim vs. Trump: North Korea's weird history of insulting U.S. officials began long before 'dotard'
Tension between the U.S. and North Korea has escalated in recent weeks with Trump threatening to “destroy” the rogue nation if it didn’t “cease its hostile behavior.” On Tuesday, the Trump administration announced new sanctions in efforts to cut off funding to North Korea.
And hours after the Warmbiers’ interview, Trump reiterated his position in a news conference, saying that any “military options” that the U.S. may “have to take” would “be devastating to North Korea.”
Some have downplayed North Korea’s threats as typical regime bluster, but others have expressed real fear that things could soon escalate into a nuclear war. Foreign Policy even reported this week that Los Angles area officials and other government agencies have received a 16-page “Nuclear Attack Response Considerations” bulletin from the L.A.-area Joint Regional Intelligence Center
Now, Fred Warmbier wants North Korea to be listed as a sponsor of terror.
“It was astounding to Cindy and I to discover that North Korea is not listed as a state sponsor of terror. We owe it to the world to list North Korea as a state sponsor of terror,” Fred Warmbier said.
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Thursday, Sept. 28 at 9:00 a.m.: This article was updated with additional details from the Hamilton County Coronoer’s office disputing details Warmbier’s parents described on television.
This article was originally published Sept. 26 at 12:45 p.m.