As his body is laid to rest in his Ohio hometown, the shock of Otto Warmbier’s death is now giving way to anger — and the Trump administration is actively weighing how to respond.
“It’s a total disgrace what happened to Otto,” President Trump has said. “That should never, ever be allowed to happen. It’s a brutal regime, and we’ll be able to handle it.”
Warmbier was held for nearly a year-and-a-half by North Korea, much of that time while in a coma, according to the reclusive country’s authoritarian regime. The details of his detention, especially how he ended up in that medical condition, are still unknown.
But the White House — while happy to have returned Warmbier to his family — is now deciding if and how it should respond to his death as it aims to “hold North Korea accountable for [his] unjust imprisonment,” according to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
Beyond demanding a full account of what happened to Warmbier, the U.S. has few options to respond — although there are three other U.S. citizens being detained in the country, and any action has to weigh their safety and concerns of a backlash against them.
Tillerson is actively considering whether to ban U.S. travel to North Korea, the State Department said Tuesday.
“The Secretary has the authority to do it,” said spokesperson Heather Nauert. “He just has not come to a conclusion about how this would potentially work, but we’re considering it.”
The U.S. strongly discourages travel to North Korea, with a stern travel warning but as of yet no ban. Without diplomatic ties in the country, the government cannot reach Americans held there, except through its…