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Otto Warmbier’s parents are hopeful after the Trump-Kim summit. But they’re still suing North Korea.

Warmbier’s parents said they were hopeful for something “positive” to come from their son’s death following the summit.

Fred and Cindy Warmbier
Fred and Cindy Warmbier, parents of college student Otto Warmbier who was incarcerated in North Korea, stand in their home.
The Washington Post/Getty Images
Madeleine Ngo covers economic policy for Vox. She previously worked at the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, and the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The US and North Korea are suddenly on much warmer terms — but the parents of Otto Warmbier, the 22-year-old college student who died last year after he was imprisoned in North Korea, are still suing the country.

President Donald Trump was full of kind words for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un after meeting him at a historic summit in Singapore earlier this week. At a press conference, he described the North Korean leader as “very smart” and said Kim “wants to do the right thing.”

When a reporter asked Trump how he was comfortable praising the man who was responsible for Warmbier’s death, Trump defended his comments and responded, “I think without Otto this would not have happened. Something happened from that day — it was a terrible thing. It was brutal.” He continued, saying, “Otto did not die in vain. He had a lot to do with us being here today.”

Cindy and Fred Warmbier, the college student’s parents, released a statement to the press after the summit saying that they “appreciate President Trump’s recent comments about our family. We are proud of Otto and miss him. Hopefully something positive can come from this.”

But lawyers of the family said the new relationship between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un will not halt their pursuits to sue North Korea for Warmbier’s wrongful death.

“The summit has no negative impact on the suit. We are moving full speed ahead and the family is eager to get before the district court,” Richard Cullen, the attorney for Warmbier’s parents, told NBC News.

Otto Warmbier’s death continues to puzzle the world

Warmbier visited North Korea on a guided tour in 2016 and on the same day the group was planning to fly out, the University of Virginia student was arrested for allegedly stealing a propaganda poster.

After being detained for 15 months, Warmbier was released to the US in a comatose state in June 2017. North Korea claims he was left in a coma because of a food poisoning disease called botulism, but doctors were strangely unable to identify any trace of botulism or the cause of his deathly injuries.

Although many have speculated that Warmbier was tortured, leaving him unable to speak, see, or respond to verbal commands, there is no medical evidence proving physical abuse.

The family first announced the lawsuit against the North Korean government in April on claims that the country violated international law by torturing their son and forcing him to confess.

Prior to the summit, the US public had speculated whether or not Trump would bring up human rights issues while sitting face-to-face with an abusive dictator who assassinates his family members, deliberately starves North Korean citizens, and orders executions at his own free will.

But when asked repeatedly by reporters at the press conference if he would address human rights issues with Kim in the future, Trump said it will “be discussed more in the future,” but gave no definitive timeframe or answer.

During the same press conference, he also said that human rights was only discussed briefly because “nuclear is always number one to me.

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