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President Donald Trump approved payment of a $2 million bill issued by North Korea for the care of American citizen Otto Warmbier, who returned to the U.S. in a coma days before he died, The Washington Post reported on Thursday.
North Korea had insisted on a U.S. pledge to pay the hospital bill before Warmbier was allowed to fly out of Pyongyang in June 2017, according to The Post.
Acting on instructions received from Trump, U.S. State Department Envoy Joseph Yun — who was sent to bring Warmbier back to the U.S. — signed an agreement to pay the bill from Pyongyang, the newspaper reported, citing two people familiar with the situation.
The bill remained unpaid throughout 2017, The Post reported, citing the two sources. On Friday, Trump himself tweeted that "no money was paid to North Korea for Otto Warmbier."
Previously, the White House declined to comment specifically on the reports of the $2 million agreement.
"We do not comment on hostage negotiations, which is why they have been so successful during this administration," press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement to CNBC.
Warmbier, a University of Virginia student, was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in 2016 after he was caught removing a propaganda sign from a Pyongyang hotel. His actions were considered a "hostile act against the state," according to the North Korea's official KCNA news agency.
On the night he was sentenced, he fell into a coma for unknown reasons, The Post reported. Warmbier died days after his return to the United States in 2017.
Yun, who retired in early 2018, told CNN on Thursday he had strict orders — which he believes came from Trump — to "get him (Warmbier) out." He also said money had been handed over to North Korea in previous instances and were justified as "hospital costs."
However, Trump had previously said his administration paid North Korea "nothing" in exchange for American hostages to be released. "I got back our hostages; I never paid them anything," he said during a September news conference.