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Otto Warmbier’s Death Dims Chances of Improved U.S. Relations With North Korea

Jae H. Ku, director of the U.S.-Korea Institute at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, agreed that moves toward diplomacy would be delayed. “I think it’s going to be slowed down. There is going to be a lot of anger and venting of frustrations,” he said.

But other analysts said that however horrific the case might be, the Trump administration was unlikely to let it upset the momentum toward dialogue it has built in recent months. They said that Mr. Yun’s trip was the first fruit of those efforts and that North Korea may have freed Mr. Warmbier to open up space for diplomacy with Washington, even if they anticipated the anger that his condition would provoke in the United States.

A statement on Monday from Mr. Trump about Mr. Warmbier condemned the North for its “brutality,” but he and Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson both stopped short of announcing fresh sanctions in response.


The Yanggakdo International Hotel in Pyongyang, where Mr. Warmbier was said to have removed a poster from staff quarters. The tour agency that took him to Pyongyang said this week that it would stop taking Americans to North Korea.

Ed Jones/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Mr. Warmbier was visiting North Korea as part of a tour group when he was detained at the Pyongyang airport in January 2016. Two months later, he was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for the “hostile act” of trying to steal a propaganda poster off the wall of his hotel.

In a series of low-key communications with the North Koreans in recent months, the Trump administration pushed for the release of Mr. Warmbier and the three other Americans as a first step toward improving ties, according to South Korean officials and others familiar with the process, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of…

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