Father of American Freed by N. Korea Thanks Trump for Ending 15-Month Ordeal

By Susan Jones | June 15, 2017 | 12:07 PM EDT

Fred Warmbier, the father of an American student detained in North Korea in January 2016, credits the Trump administration with bringing Otto home. (Screen grab from CNN)

(CNSNews.com) – Wearing the same jacket his son was last seen in 15 months ago, as North Korean guards led him into a room to make a forced confession, Fred Warmbier told a news conference on Thursday that his son Otto is finally getting the medical care that he’s been denied for so long.

Warmbier thanked President Trump for bringing Otto back to the U.S. two days ago, after efforts by the Obama administration yielded no results.

When Otto was first taken, we were advised by the past administration to take a low profile while they worked to obtain his release. We did so without resolve. 

Earlier this year, Cindy and I decided the time for strategic patience was over, and we made a few media appearances and traveled to Washington to meet with Ambassador Joe Yun at the state department. It is my understanding that the Ambassador Yun and his team, at the direction of the president, aggressively pursued resolution of the situation. 

They have our thanks for bringing Otto home. 

A reporter noted that Warmbier “thanked President Trump, and then you noted that the past administration didn’t do enough. So, do you feel like President Obama should have been more willing to help?

Warmbier responded: “The question is, do I think the past administration could have done more? I think the results speak for themselves,” he said.

“We went for 15 months without a word from or about Otto,” Fred told the news conference. “It was only a week ago that we were informed that the North Korean government now claims he was in a coma for almost all of that time.” 

Warmbier said he and his wife Cindy have traveled to Washington, D.C., more than a dozen times since Otto's been gone, meeting with “everyone in the past administration,” from Secretary of State John Kerry to the Swedish ambassador to North Korea, to senators, congressmen, and so on down the line.

“And we relied on this false premise that they would treat Otto fairly and let him go, and we -- Otto was held as a war criminal,” Warmbier said. 

“So, we did what we could. We tried to stay low. We were advised that it was important that you don't upset the North Koreans. And so, we followed that logic. 

“And then…there came a time where we're tired, that doesn't seem to have any impact, so we went public with an interview on 'The Tucker Carlson Show' and then did a couple written pieces, and then very quickly, we have Otto home.” 

Warmbier said Dennis Rodman’s visit to North Korea this week “had nothing to do with Otto.” He called it a “diversion.”

“What do you think is the real reason they released Otto?” a reporter asked Warmbier.

“I know that the State Department was negotiating tough with them. I don't know if we'll ever find the answer,” Warmbier said.

Warmbier said President Trump called him around 10 o’clock last night “to find out how Cindy and I were doing and wanted to know about Otto. It was a really nice conversation,” he said. 

“It was, are you taking care of yourself, and you know, we worked hard, and you know, and I'm sorry this is the outcome, and told me a little bit about Secretary Tillerson and Joe Yun, and they teamed up and made things happen. 

“He was very candid, and it was a nice conversation. And to be honest with you, I had avoided conversations with him, and then, because to what end? I'm dealing with my son. This is about Otto. But I did take the call, and it was gracious and it was nice and it felt good, and I thank him for that.”

Warmbier, 22, was detained at Pyongyang International Airport in January 2016 and charged with stealing a poster from a North Korean hotel where he was staying as part of a Young Pioneers Tour. He was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for "crimes against the state."

Doctors at the University of  Cincinnati Medical Center will give an update on Otto's medical condition at a news conference this afternoon.