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Washington in shock after Trump ACCEPTS stunning invitation to meet North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un
This is on me: Trump used twitter to terminate the career of Rex Tillerson, the former Exxon Mobil boss who had been secretary of state for 15 months. An official revealed the president did not speak to Tillerson
You're fired: Rex Tillerson was abruptly fired by Donald Trump on Tuesday morning in a single tweet
Replacement: Mike Pompeo, who had been CIA director, will now lead the State Department and Gina Haspel, a career CIA officer who was its deputy director will become the first woman to lead it
Family: Rex Tillerson had stepped down as CEO of Exxon Mobil when he was offered the job by Trump. His wife Renda St. Clair persuaded him to take it saying: 'I told you God's not through with you.'
'We were not really thinking the same. With Mike, Mike Pompeo, we have a very similar thought process. I think it's going to go very well.'
Trump made no mention of the most notorious tussle between him and Tillerson, when the secretary of state was reported to have called the president a 'f***ing moron' then refused to deny it.
The State Department said Tillerson only learned of his termination when he read Trump's tweet on Tuesday morning.
Two senior department officials said Tillerson received a call from John Kelly, Trump's chief of staff, on Friday, but was only told that there might be a presidential tweet that would concern him.
Kelly didn't tell Tillerson what the tweet might say or when it might actually publish, according to the official, who wasn't authorized to speak publicly on the matter and demanded anonymity.
Tillerson had told reporters on his plane he had cut short his trip by one night because he was exhausted after working most of the night two nights in a row and getting sick in Ethiopia.
There were no obvious signs from his behavior or his aides on the plane that his departure was imminent.
'I felt like, look, I just need to get back,' Tillerson said.
Instead he was fired and left to spend time with his wife, Renda St. Clair, who had told him to take the job when he was reluctant to himself.
He had revealed last year how when Trump offered him the role 'I was going to the ranch to be with my grandkids.'
Instead his wife told him: 'I told you God's not through with you.'
But by last week Trump was through with Tillerson instead.
One senior White House official said that when Trump made the dramatic and sudden decision last Friday to meet with Kim Jong Un - a decision made while Tillerson was in Africa - an aide asked if Tillerson should weigh in on the matter.
Trump said there was no reason to consult him because no matter what the group decided, Tillerson would be against it, the official said.
On the White House lawn Trump gushed that his future secretary Mike Pompeo has 'tremendous energy, tremendous intellect, we're always on the same wavelength. The relationship has been very good.'
You're fired too: Steve Goldstein, under secretary of state for public affairs, revealed Tillerson had been blindsided by his firing - and was fired himself within hours
The president had tweeted earlier that Pompeo 'will do a fantastic job!'
'Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service! Gina Haspel will become the new Director of the CIA, and the first woman so chosen. Congratulations to all!'
Haspel was the CIA's deputy director, a career officer who was a longtime clandestine officer.
She was involved in running a black site during the notorious CIA detention program which saw prisoners waterboarded, and could face a highly rocky confirmation hearing in front of the Senate.
In a statement, Trump said Pompeo 'graduated first in his class at West Point, served with distinction in the U.S. Army, and graduated with Honors from Harvard Law School. He went on to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives with a proven record of working across the aisle.'
He called Haspel's move to the CIA's reins 'a historic milestone.'
Trump also had words of praise for Tillerson: 'A great deal has been accomplished over the last fourteen months, and I wish him and his family well,' he said.
The president, however, had clashed with Tillerson over and over again in the past year, seeing him as a relic of the Republican establishment at a time when the nation needed more unconventional thinking.
The Washington Post reported that Tillerson was ousted on Friday, meaning that the White House known best for leaking information kept it a secret all weekend.
The outgoing diplomat's last act in office was a shot across Vladimir Putin's bow, saying Monday that the poisoning of an ex-Russian spy in the UK 'clearly came from Russia' – and vowing to respond – hours after the White House refused to blame the Kremlin.
In a strongly worded statement, he slammed Russia as an 'irresponsible force of instability in the world' and gave the British government his backing after Prime Minister Theresa May pointed her own finger toward Moscow.
'We have full confidence in the UK's investigation and its assessment that Russia was likely responsible for the nerve agent attack that took place in Salisbury last week,' Tillerson said Monday.
Victim: Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned in a pizza restaurant in Salisbury, in south-west England and Rex Tillerson publicly blamed Vladimir Putin's Russia for the attack on Monday, something the White House had pointedly not done
Key figure: Trump repeatedly crossed swords with Rex Tillerson, including a public episode in October where the president chided him on Twitter for 'wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man' – a reference to North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un - which Trump is now going to do face-to-face
Final meeting: Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari was the last world leader to receive Tillerson as he wrapped up a swing through Africa
Goodbye: Rex Tillerson was last seen on Monday boarding his plane home to the United States after a tour of Africa which concluded in Abuja, Nigeria, after taking in countries including Ethiopia and Kenya
Downhill from here: Rex Tillerson was sworn in by Mike Pence in the Oval Office on February 1 2017, with his wife Renda St. Clair holding the Bible. She had told him to take the job over his own reluctance
'There is never a justification for this type of attack, the attempted murder of a private citizen on the soil of a sovereign nation, and we are outraged that Russia appears to have again engaged in such behavior.
'Russia continues to be an irresponsible force of instability in the world, acting with open disregard for the sovereignty of other states and the life of their citizens.'
He added that those responsible 'must face appropriately serious consequences.'
Trump seemed to back him up on Tuesday, saying that he would be speaking with May later in the day.
'It sounds to me like it would be Russia,' he said, 'based on all of the evidence that they have.'
Tillerson made the remarks during his trip to Africa just hours after the the White House broke a week-long silence to condemn the chemical attack, but declined to mention Moscow.'
Trump had repeatedly crossed swords with the former Exxon Mobil executive, including a public episode in October where the president chided him on Twitter for 'wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man' – a reference to North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un.
Foreign policy veterans said at the time that they couldn't recall an instance where a sitting president had undermined his secretary of state in such a humiliating fashion.
But five months later the president himself accepted Kim's invitation for a face-to-face meeting over the hermit kingdom's nuclear missile program.
Tillerson raised eyebrows in Washington last year with reports that he had called Trump a 'moron' following a national security meeting in July about America's nuclear posture.
He never directly denied making the caustic remark, leaving that to a State Department spokeswoman. Trump said the same day that he had 'total confidence in Rex.'
Later that month, newly installed White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Secretary of Defense James Mattis begged Tillerson to stay on.
The following month, after Trump angered Americans on both sides of the aisle with tone-deaf comments about the role of neo-Nazis in a Virginia race riot, a furious Tillerson declined to defend him.
'The president speaks for himself,' Tillerson said at the time during a 'Fox News Sunday' interview.
Even then, the White House outwardly professed comfort with Tillerson and confidence in his abilities.
Haspel will need to face a Senate confirmation hearing.
Pompeo will not – at least not right away – because the Senate confirmed him as the CIA director just three days into the Trump administration.
A different committee will ultimately have to grill him, however.
Trump said that his incoming secretary of state 'has earned the praise of members in both parties by strengthening our intelligence gathering, modernizing our defensive and offensive capabilities, and building close ties with our friends and allies in the international intelligence community.'
'I have gotten to know Mike very well over the past 14 months, and I am confident he is the right person for the job at this critical juncture,' he added.
'He will continue our program of restoring America's standing in the world, strengthening our alliances, confronting our adversaries, and seeking the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.'
Mike Pompeo, named Tuesday to be US secretary of state, comes from a one-year stint leading the Central Intelligence Agency where he earned Donald Trump's trust delivering the president's daily national security briefings and by toeing Trump's line politically.
Pompeo, who replaces Rex Tillerson, brings the discipline of a former standout at West Point, the prestigious US military academy, as well as the political wiles of a four-term member of the House of Representatives, where he served on the controversial Intelligence Committee.
AS CIA director he cut a path into Trump's inner circle with ready praise of the president, personally delivering many of the Oval Office's crucial daily intelligence briefings.
He echoes Trump's hard line against Iran and North Korea. But, currying the president's favor, Pompeo has also avoided directly contradicting Trump's insistence that Russia did not work to support his election in 2016 -- even though that is what the CIA concludes.
'With Mike Pompeo, we have a very similar thought process,' Trump said Tuesday.
Pompeo, 54, has had a meteoric career that leaned heavily on political opportunities that ultimately led him to Trump.
Born and raised in southern California, he attended the US Military Academy at West Point, where he graduated top of his class in 1986, specializing in engineering.
He served in the military for five years - never in combat - and then left to attend Harvard Law School.
He later founded an engineering company in Wichita, Kansas, where financial backers included the conservative Koch brothers, oil industry billionaires and powerful movers and shakers in the Republican Party.
Pursuit: Pompeo made his name going after Hillary Clinton as a member of special committee formed to investigate the 2012 killing of a US ambassador and three other Americans in Benghazi, Libya.
The Kochs backed his successful first run for Congress in 2010, and energy-related legislation he promoted in his first years in the House of Representatives was seen as very friendly to them.
He moved quickly onto the House Intelligence Committee, where, as overseer of the CIA and other agencies, he was privy to the country's deepest secrets.
But he made his name on the special committee Republicans formed to investigate the 2012 killing of a US ambassador and three other Americans in Benghazi, Libya.
It made him a leading voice against Trump's political nemesis, Hillary Clinton, who as secretary of state at the time was blamed by Republicans for the deaths.
As director of the CIA, Pompeo has matched the tone of Trump's foreign policy pronouncements.
'The CIA, to be successful, must be aggressive, vicious, unforgiving, relentless,' he said.
He joked about assassinating North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which raised fears of a return to the agency's penchant for backing assassinations of dictators not in US favor.
He earned the president's trust in the daily national security briefings, where he has readily accommodated the president's aversion to reading long reports by having intelligence staff prepare simple graphic presentations of global risks and threats.
When pressed in public, he has said he supports the January 2017 report by the country's top intelligence chiefs that concludes that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential race in an effort to help Trump defeat Clinton.
Meanwhile, he has also stomached the president's ugly attacks on the CIA, calling their report on Russia meddling fake news and accusing them of political bias.
Dennis Rodman takes credit for Otto Warmbier's release: NBA star returns from North Korea claiming he got 'tortured' American freed and 'didn't know the fatally-ill student was sick'
South Korea's national security adviser Chung Eui-yong (C-L) meeting US President Donald J. Trump (C) at the White House in Washington, DC, USA, 08 March 2018
South Korea's national security adviser Chung Eui-yong (L) meeting US President Donald J. Trump (R) at the White House in Washington, DC, USA
'President Trump greatly appreciates the nice words of the South Korean delegation and President Moon. He will accept the invitation to meet with Kim Jong Un at a place and time to be determined,' Sanders said.
'We look forward to the denuclearization of North Korea. In the meantime, all sanctions and maximum pressure must remain.'
Chung, who made the announcement on behalf of South Korea, led the delegation visiting North Korea earlier this week, and the invitation to meet Trump was reportedly made to him directly by Kim Jong Un.
Chung said that Kim understands and accepts the fact that joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises will continue, but that he also made promises to halt nuclear testings until the meeting with Trump takes place.
A U.S. official later said the meeting would take place in 'a matter of a couple of months' but did not commit the president to a face-to-face with Kim this spring.
'He [Kim] conveyed that he wants to meet with President Trump as quickly as possible,' the senior official stated.
The senior official said the stiff punishing actions on North Korea would also stay in place.
'At this point we're not even talking about negotiations,' the official said of a plan to hold North Korea to its word that it would freeze its illicit nuclear and ballistic missile development programs.
President Trump reiterated the point in a tweet that followed.
'Kim Jong Un talked about denuclearization with the South Korean Representatives, not just a freeze. Also, no missile testing by North Korea during this period of time. Great progress being made but sanctions will remain until an agreement is reached. Meeting being planned!' the U.S. president said.
The planned meeting of the two world leaders has been met with praise from other nations.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov welcomed the news, saying that Russia considers the move 'a step in the right direction.'
He went on to express hope that the agreement would be implemented and that it is 'necessary for normalizing the situation around the Korean peninsula.'
Meanwhile, the foreign ministry in China - North Korea's key ally - said it hopes all parties to the will 'show their political courage' in restarting negotiations, and pledges its support in working toward that goal.
Spokesman Geng Shuang on Friday said China welcomes and supports the 'positive inter-Korean and U.S.-North Korea interactions.'
Geng told reporters at a regularly scheduled press briefing that China hope that all parties 'will continue to strive for the political resolution and lasting peace and stability on the peninsula.'
Stiff punishing actions on North Korea will continue, despite the overture, the U.S. stressed
News that Trump had agreed to meet the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un sent Asian stock markets surging and the yen tumbling.
It provided a springboard for Asian markets, with Seoul surging 1.1 percent and Tokyo ending 0.5 percent higher.
Hong Kong added more than one percent, Sydney and Singapore each rose 0.3 percent, and Shanghai jumped 0.6 percent. Taipei, Manila, Wellington and Mumbai were also higher.
'It's a big deal - there's no question this is a positive move,' Ian Bremmer, president of Eurasia Group, a political-risk research and consulting firm in New York, told Bloomberg TV.
'But also there is the possibility that it could go badly, that Trump could be embarrassed that they make an agreement that Kim Jong Un could backslide on.'
Hopes that the two could reach some sort of agreement also led to a plunge in the yen, which is considered a go-to safe currency in times of volatility and uncertainty. The dollar jumped to its highest level in a week.
Market effect: A South Korean dealer works in front of monitors at the KEB Hana Bank in Seoul, South Korea
The announcement on the White House lawn came almost exactly 24 hours after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the US was 'a long way from negotiations' with the North.
Speaking to reporters during a visit to the African nation of Djibouti on Friday, Tillerson said the swift turnaround was down to the President.
'That is a decision the president took himself. I spoke to him very early this morning about that decision and we had a very good conversation.
'President Trump has said for some time that he was open to talks and he would willingly meet with Kim when conditions were right,' the top U.S. diplomat said.
'And I think in the president's judgment that time has arrived now.'
He said the United States was surprised at how 'forward-leaning' Kim was in his conversations with a visiting South Korean delegation. He said it was the strongest indication to date of Kim's 'not just willingness but really his desire for talks'.
President Donald Trump cautiously approached North Korea's offer to freeze its nuclear program while it holds a 'candid dialogue' with the United States on Tuesday
First, Trump sent out a tweet on Tuesday morning that said, 'We will see what happens!'
The U.S. president said he wants to take the 'proper' pathway, which he suggested was diplomatic talks, 'But we are prepared to go either way.'
'And as I said, hopefully we'll go in the very, very peaceful, beautiful path. We're prepared to go whichever path is necessary,' he added. 'I think we're having very good dialogue, and you're gonna certainly find out very soon what's happening, but we have, we have made progress, there's no question about it.'
That morning, Trump warned North Korean despot Kim Jong-un, 'The U.S. is ready to go hard in either direction!'
The U.S. president said then that 'possible progress' toward talks had been made, but it could also be a 'false hope.'
On Saturday evening, Trump said that the North Koreans had reached out and his administration would be meeting with Kim's government.
'They, by the way, called up a couple of days ago and said, 'We would like to talk.' And I said, 'So would we, but you have to de-nuke, you have to de-nuke.' So, let's see what happens,' the president stated. 'But we will be meeting and we'll see if anything positive happens.'
An National Security Council spokesman did not respond to DailyMail.com's request for clarification, and a senior official would not tell reporters during a call on Tuesday afternoon if talks were already under way.
Then he said that talks were 'possible' -- but they could also be a 'false hope' -- and the 'U.S. is ready to go hard in either direction'
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven offered Tuesday during a joint press conference with Trump at the White House to mediate talks with the North Koreans, if that is what Trump wants.
His country maintains an embassy in Pyongyang and serves at the United States' protectorate there.
Löfven said it's not up to Sweden to solve the dispute, however, he believes that the North Koreans trust his nation to act as arbiter.
'If the president decides, the key actors decide, if they want us to help out,' he said, 'we'll be there.'
Other potential meeting places were the demilitarized zone, or DMZ, between North and South Korea, in addition to Seoul, Beijing and Tokyo.
A senior U.S. official said Thursday evening that Trump had spoke to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The official did not say if a call to China's Xi Jinping was also underway.
Complicating a conversation between Trump and Xi was the U.S. president's announcement on Thursday afternoon that he was slapping a 25 percent tariff on imported steel and a 10 percent penalty on imported aluminum in an aggressive bid to prevent Chinese dumping and boost American metal workers.
Big step: Kim Jong Un,pictured meeting South Korean National Security Director Chung Eui-yong, in Pyongyang, has said he is ready to discuss de-nuclearization with the U.S.
A week ago, Trump signaled his openness to a talk with Kim -- if it took place 'under the right conditions.'
'Otherwise, we're not talking,' Trump told United States governors.
He commented that Kim 'wants to talk, as of last night' and said 'we want to talk also.'
Trump went on to make a familiar complaint about his predecessors, blasting former President Bill Clinton and others for failing to keep North Korea in check.
'The Clinton administration spent billions and billions of dollars. They gave them billions. They built things for them. They went out of their way, and the day after the agreement was signed, they continued with nuclear research. It was horrible.'
Continuing, Trump said, 'The Bush administration did nothing — both. The Obama administration wanted to do something. He told me it's the single biggest problem that this country has. But they didn't do anything.
'And it would have been much easier, in those days, than it is now. I think most people understand that. But we've been very tough with them.'
Trump's administration has led an international charge to cripple North Korea's economy and bring Kim to his knees. The advance will not cease, the U.S. has said, until the rogue dictator abandons his nuclear ambitions.
At his White House news conference on Tuesday, Trump said he believes that the North Koreans are sincere in their offer to halt nuclear and missile tests if the United States sits down for talks.
'But I think they're sincere also because the sanctions,' he assessed. 'The sanctions have been very, very strong and very biting. And we don't want that to happen. So I really believe they are sincere. I hope they're sincere. We're going to soon find out.'
The Pyeongchang Games provided a long-awaited opening for the kind of detente that could lead to substantive talks between North Korea and South Korea, along with the United States and its allies.
The two Koreas marched under one flag at the opening ceremony of the games, and Kim sent his sister, Kim Yo Jong, to the South to head the North's delegation.
A South Korean envoy lead by Chung returned Tuesday to Seoul from a meeting with Kim in Pyongyang where the North Koreans are said to have offered to halt nuclear tests for the time being if the United States agrees to talks.
Televisions being sold at an Onoden Co. electronics store display a broadcast of a news report on North Korea's Nov. 29 missile launch, showing footage captioned as the launch of the Hwasong-12 missile in September, in Tokyo, Japan
Chung said said that Kim promised not to use nuclear or conventional weapons against South Korea in the conversation where the two countries also agreed to open a hotline between their leaders 'to ease military tension and have close coordination' and meet for another round of talks in April.
The next summit is expected to take place in Panmunjom. It will be only the third inter-Korean set of talks ever held and the first in more than a decade.
The last time the rival countries held high-level talks was in 2007, when the North was under Kim's father's command. A summit in 2000 also took place while Kim Jong Il controlled the North. The elder Kim passed away in 2011, giving rise to Kim Jong-un's reign.
Chung said Tuesday that the younger Kim, 34, said he wants to 'write a new history of national reunification' during a four-hour dinner this week in Pyongyang.
US Senator Lindsey Graham said in a statement on Thursday that he hoped for peace, but warned Kim that 'it will be the end' of him if he tried to take advantage of Trump.
Other senior US politicans were also skeptical, with Republican Cory Gardner of Colorado saying the 'price of admission' for Trump and Kim meeting must be 'complete, verifiable, and irreversible de-nuclerization of the Korean peninsula.'
Democrat Ed Markey of Massachusetts says Trump should treat it 'as the beginning of a long diplomatic process' - avoiding 'unscripted' remarks that could derail it.
Meanwhile, Republican Rep. Ed Royce of California, the House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman had a more positive take, saying that North Korea's desire to talk shows that sanctions are 'starting to work.'
Forrmer NBA star Dennis Rodman, who has traveled several times to North Korea and is one of the few Americans to have met its leader, praised Trump for his decision.
Rodman told The Associated Press he looks forward to returning to the pariah nation for 'basketball diplomacy' in the coming months.
He said: 'Well done, President Trump. You're on the way to a historical meeting no U.S. president has ever done.'
Special guests: Kim Jong Un sits next to his wife Ri Sol-Ju, with his sister Kim Yo-Jong sat to the right of one of the South Korean diplomats during a meal hosted by North Korea
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meets members of the special delegation of South Korea's President in this photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency
As the Olympics unfolded in South Korea, the United States loudly warned the world that Kim was putting on a charm offensive.
Vice President Mike Pence, who led the U.S. delegation to the opening ceremony, urged the international community, and South Korea, not let up on the North until Kim fully capitulates when it comes to his building of nuclear weapons.
'The policy of the U.S. is the denuclearization of North Korea. The maximum pressure campaign is going to continue and intensify. All options are on the table,' a senior official said of Pence's message to Moon as he departed the peninsula.
Pence announced during the trip, and the United States followed up with, a rigorous set of sanctions that the Trump administration described as the largest and most aggressive to date.
Treasury blacklisted one person, 27 companies and 28 ships with the action it says was 'aimed at shutting down North Korea's illicit maritime smuggling activities to obtain oil and sell coal.' The sanctions hit entities in Taiwan, Hong Kong, China and Singapore and others.
Steve Mnuchin, the U.S. Treasury Secretary, said that nearly all of North Korea's shipping sector had now been targeted. The total number of sanctions steps since 2005 has now hit 45 - with almost half of the actions coming since Trump took office.
At a press conference later in the day, Trump said he'd make preparations for 'phase two' if the punishing actions are not successful, the outcome of which could be 'very, very unfortunate for the world.'
'But hopefully the sanctions will work,' he said during remarks at a joint White House press conference with the Australian prime minister.
The North Korean dictator shakes hands with South Korea's national security director Chung Eui-yong as his sister looks on
No insight: Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this image distributed by the North Korean government
Envoys for South Korea led by President Moon's national security director, Chung Eui-yong, are on a rare two-day visit to Pyongyang that's expected to focus on how to ease a standoff over North Korea's nuclear ambitions and restart talks between Pyongyang and Washington
During his address to the UN General Assembly back in September, Trump said the US would 'totally destroy North Korea' if forced to defend itself or its allies.
He also referred to Kim as 'Rocket Man' during his speech.
'The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,' Trump said.
'Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.'
Kim hit back to the Rocket Man comments accusing Trump of 'mentally deranged behavior.'
He said he would 'surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged US dotard with fire'.
Trump responded on Twitter the following morning: 'Kim Jong Un of North Korea, who is obviously a madman who doesn't mind starving or killing his people, will be tested like never before!'
Kim said that he has a nuclear button on his desk in his New Year's address this year.
In the same speech, he also called for improved relations with South Korea and suggested sending a delegation to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
Trump quickly responded saying that he has a bigger and more powerful nuclear button.
'North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the 'Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.' Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!' he tweeted.
Ever since Trump was elected, the two leaders have traded barbs about threats of potential nuclear attacks.
After North Korea announced they had tested a series of missiles, Trump said the country had best not make more threats or 'they will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.'
North Korea hours later announces a plan to launch a salvo of missiles toward the US territory of Guam, a major military hub in the Pacific.
Other threats of nuclear attacks:
Kim said in his New Year's address in 2017 that preparations for launching an intercontinental ballistic missile had 'reached the final stage.'
A day later Trump, who was then president-elect, tweeted: 'North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the US It won't happen!'
Parents of US student Otto Warmbier, 22, lash brutal N. Korean regime as their son dies, six days after being brought home in a coma after 17 months in prison for stealing a propaganda poster
Retired basketball legend Dennis Rodman is claiming credit Friday for the release of American college student Otto Warmbier from a North Korean prison last week
Rodman (seen left alongside his agent, Chris Volo) arrived in North Korea on the same day Warmbier was handed over to the US in a comatose state. ‘I asked on behalf of Dennis for his release three times,’ Volo tells ABC News. 'I know being there had something to do with it'
‘Dennis Rodman had nothing to do with Otto returning to the United States,’ Fred Warmbier told GMA.
Warmbier was laid to rest in Wyoming, Ohio, on Thursday.
Rodman revealed Friday that he reached out to the Warmbier family in a bid to arrange a meeting, but was rebuffed.
‘I was just so happy to see the kid released,’ Rodman told GMA co-host Michael Strahan of his initial reaction when he learned Warmbier was going home.
'Later that day, that's when we found out he was ill, no one knew that.'
The University of Virginia student is thought to have been in a coma since he was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for stealing a propaganda poster in March 2016. He is seen above in Pyongyang in this February 29, 2016 file photo
While Rodman suggested that he played a role in Warmbier’s release, both the State Department and the student’s father said this was not true. Warmbier is seen above on June 13 landing in Cincinnati. He died this past Monday from a neurological condition
Warmbier's casket is carried from Wyoming High School after his funeral on Thursday in Wyoming, Ohio
Rodman arrived in North Korea on Monday, June 12, the same day Warmbier was released in a comatose state.
Warmbier, 22, died in an Ohio hospital on Monday after North Korea freed him for what it called humanitarian reasons.
Doctors at the hospital said he had suffered a severe neurological injury from an unknown cause.
North Korea on Friday denied torturing Warmbier in the first official reaction since the University of Virginia student died after returning home in a coma.
The hermit state broke its silence after South Korea said the North bore responsibility for Warmbier's fate and President Donald Trump slammed his detention and death as 'a total disgrace'.
The University of Virginia student is thought to have been in a coma since he was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for stealing a propaganda poster in March 2016.
Rodman says he wanted to 'give all the prayer and love' to the Warmbiers.
Rodman also reveals to GMA on Friday that during this most recent five-day trip, he did not meet North Korean ruler Kim Jong-Un. Still, Rodman says that Kim is a personal friend of his – so much so that the two men spend quality time together. 'We sing karaoke,' Rodman says
His earlier visits to North Korea in 2013 and 2014 included a basketball game that he organized, an event chronicled in the documentary film ‘Big Bang in Pyongyang’, which featured Rodman singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Kim
Rodman has faced ridicule and criticism for his trips to North Korea, which some US politicians and activists view as serving only as fodder for North Korean propaganda. Rodman is seen above with North Korean schoolchildren during his most recent trip
When asked about Otto Warmbier’s state, Rodman says: ‘I didn’t know he was sick.’
Volo says that Rodman reached out to Warmbier’s family in hopes of arranging a meeting.
‘But we were told that, you know, it just couldn’t happen,’ the agent says.
Rodman also reveals to GMA on Friday that during this most recent five-day trip, he did not meet North Korean ruler Kim Jong-Un.
‘The previous times we did,’ Rodman says.
‘I think the fact that, you know, my trips going up to North Korea is more like trying... to get to communicate sports-wise. It ain't about trying to release people.
‘It's not trying to do... political stuff. It's almost just trying to reach out for sports and see if I can bring sports to North Korea,’ Rodman said.
Rodman has faced ridicule and criticism for his trips to North Korea, which some US politicians and activists view as serving only as fodder for North Korean propaganda.
His earlier visits to North Korea in 2013 and 2014 included a basketball game that he organized, an event chronicled in the documentary film ‘Big Bang in Pyongyang’, which featured Rodman singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Kim.
The US government has issued travel warnings to Americans against going to North Korea.
Despite the Kim government’s record of rampant human rights abuses, Rodman says that the North Korean ruler and his country are widely misunderstood.
‘We've seen a lot of changes [to the country],’ Rodman says on Friday.
North Korea ‘is so modernized now,’ according to the retired power forward.
‘When you go over there, and you hear the radio, and... people are talking,’ Rodman said. They're so happy now, because it's more like... it's civilized again.’
Rodman and his agent, Volo, were spotted in New York City on Friday
Otto Warmbier (pictured ashe was taken in to custody in Pyongyang last January) has died days after being brought back to the United States in a coma from North Korea
The 22-year-old was carried off a private plane last week after touching down in Cincinnati to be reunited with his family 17 months after he was jailed. He returned in an almost vegetative state and had suffered extensive brain loss
'When Otto returned to Cincinnati late on June 13th, he was unable to speak, unable to see and unable to react to verbal commands.
'He looked very uncomfortable - almost anguished. Although we would never hear his voice again, within a day the countenance on his face changed - he was at peace. He was home and we believe he could sense that.
'We thank everyone around the world who has kept him and our family in their thoughts and prayers. We are at peace and at home too,' they said.
Otto was a student at the University of Virginia when he traveled in a group to Pyongyang.