Belying claims of President Donald Trump that he never paid money to North Korea for release of hostages,  a report said Trump indeed approved payment of $2 million for the release of American citizen Otto Warmbier, who was in a comma.

The report by Washington Post on Thursday quoted people familiar with the negotiations. The report exposes Trump’s claim that his administration paid North Korea “nothing” for the release of American hostages. 

The plight of an American student

Warmbier, 21, was a student of the University of Virginia. He was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in 2016 by North Korea for “hostile act against the state” for taking away a propaganda sign installed in a Pyongyang hotel.

However, on the night of his sentencing, Warmbier slipped into a coma, mysteriously. For 15 long months, North Koreans did not reveal his condition and kept the comatose student in a hospital.  

In June 2017 American officials were told that he was unconscious and critical. This triggered an urgent mission by Joseph Yun, then the State Department’s point man on North Korea to get Warmbier home.

Yun, accompanied by an emergency medicine doctor Michael Flueckiger flew to Pyongyang. They found Warmbier lying in an “intensive care unit care” of a hospital. He was unresponsive and was left with a feeding tube in his nose.

But North Korea insisted that the U.S. must make a signed agreement that it would pay the hospital bill, before taking Warmbier home.

Yun informed then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson about the North Korean bill, who then talked to Trump. The envoy was asked to go ahead and sign the paper to pay $2 million.

Yun, now a retired man, told CNN that he had strict orders from Trump to “get him (Warmbier) out.”

In his view, money could have been paid to North Korea on previous occasions as well in the guise of “hospital costs.”

 White House says no comment on hostage negotiations

Reacting to the report, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said, “we do not comment on hostage negotiations, which is why they have been so successful during this administration.”

Fred Warmbier, Otto’s father, said he was not aware of the hospital bill. For him, the payout sounds like a “ransom” for his son.