DENVER – The U.S. should consider an absolute embargo and travel ban on North Korea after the “murder” of Otto Warmbier, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., said Wednesday.
Gardner has been one of the leading voices in the Senate over the past year in pushing for sanctions against North Korea and its leader, Kim Jong Un, who last month called Gardner a “psychopath” in response to Gardner saying that Kim was a “madman.”
But his scorn for the reclusive nation has seemingly grown in the days since Otto Warmbier, a young American man who was imprisoned in North Korea for 17 months and reportedly tortured, was returned to the U.S. last week in a coma. Warmbier died Monday.
Gardner also on Wednesday renewed his call for North Korea to be re-listed on the State Department’s list of states that sponsor terrorism in response to Warmbier’s death—something he first called for in February.
“What we ought to do is use this moment right now, as we mourn the loss of Otto Warmbier—and just can’t even fathom the torture that he endured—North Korea ought to be immediately listed as a state sponsor of terror as a result of these actions.”
Gardner said he’d already talked to the State Department about again adding North Korea to the list.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Monday that North Korea would be held accountable for Warmbier’s “unjust imprisonment” and demanded the release of three other Americans currently in North Korean custody.
Though there are already sanctions in place on North Korea, Gardner went further Wednesday.
“I fully support a travel ban and I fully support an absolute embargo on the North Korean government,” Gardner told Denver7. “What happened was, in essence, murder by the North Korean regime.”
North Korea said earlier this month it “fully rejects” new UN Security Council sanctions agreed upon by the U.S., China and other UN nations after repeated ballistic missile tests.
“I think it’s clear that North Korea continues to rise in its level of threat,” Gardner told Denver7 after a briefing on North Korea at the end of April. “We know that the conditions on the Korean Peninsula are at their most unstable point since the armistice, and that fact is they’re developing a nuclear weapon and they’re trying every day to hit the homeland of the United States with.”