On North Korea, The U.S. Fails to Maintain its Bipartisan Tradition of Leadership on Human Rights

Michael Posner

By Michael Posner

The president’s defense of Kim follows a disturbing pattern, one in which Trump seems prone to develop alliances with autocratic leaders, and then rushes to their defense when they engage in egregious conduct, as they almost always do.

By Michael Posner

As he wound down his two-day summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un in Hanoi, President Trump was asked again to comment on the torture and murder of Otto Warmbier, the University of Virginia student who died in 2017. Warmbier had been studying in North Korea in 2015 when he was arrested and held on bogus charges for 17 months, ultimately lapsing into a coma and dying.

Initially, Trump had been highly critical of the North Korean government’s role following Warmbier’s death, condemning the “brutality of the North Korean regime.” But now that the president has befriended Kim, Trump is using a dramatically softer tone. On Thursday, Trump observed that Kim “feels badly about” Warmbier’s demise. He theorized that North Korea’s “top leadership” might not even have been involved in the imprisonment.

The President went out of his way to protect Kim. “I don't believe he would have allowed that to happen,” Trump said. “It just wasn't to his advantage to allow that to happen.” Trying to put the matter to rest, Trump endorsed, “He tells me he didn't know about it, and I take him at his word.”

Read the full Forbes article.
Michael Posner is a Professor of Business and Society and Director of the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights.