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Sen. Portman Talks The Koreas And Otto Warmbier During Cincinnati Stop

Sen. Rob Portman talks with attendees at a Friday morning breakfast at the Center for Addiction Treatment honoring local leaders.
Sen. Rob Portman talks with attendees at a Friday morning breakfast at the Center for Addiction Treatment honoring local leaders.

Following Friday'shistoric meetingbetween the leaders of North and South Korea, Senator Rob Portman says he still doesn't trust the north's Kim Jong Un.

"I think what they did to Otto Warmbier, the kid here from Cincinnati, is an example of that," he says. "They still detain Americans, three Americans are there now that shouldn't be detained. I think what they've done with their nuclear weapons program is illegal under international rules."

That said, Portman does favor continued talks with North Korea and says newly confirmed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is the right man for the job. A meeting is also being planned between the U.S. and North Korea.

"We should be talking to them," he says. "We should have direct conversations with these people. Why? Because they have developed nuclear capability and they now have the weapons delivery system probably to reach our shores. That's a pretty scary possibility."

He also believes there should be consequences if North Korea doesn't keep its commitments. "It's trust but verify, right?," he says. "Right now, I believe they're coming to the table in large part because the sanctions that the United States have led are working."

The family of Otto Warmbier, the Wyoming High School graduate who died shortly after being released from North Korean detention, filed a lawsuitagainst the regime on Thursday. Cynthia and Fred Warmbier, his parents, say in the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for Washington, D.C., that North Korea "brutally tortured and murdered" their 22-year-old son.

The Warmbiers are asking for punitive damages.

"They're grief is being channeled towards something constructive, which is to try to raise funds for a non-profit that helps to expose to the world what the North Korean regime is doing not just to foreigners in the case of Otto Warmbier, but to their own people," Portman says.

As NPR reports, a previous judgment against North Korea didn't result in any funds coming from Pyongyang, but the U.S. Victims of State-Sponsored Terrorism fund did pay out $9 million to crew members of the USS Pueblo and their families for the 1968 torture of the crew.

Portman was in Cincinnati Friday to speak at a pair of drug prevention and rehabilitation events.

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Tana Weingartner earned a bachelor's degree in communication from the University of Cincinnati and a master's degree in mass communication from Miami University. Most recently, she served as news and public affairs producer with WMUB-FM. Ms. Weingartner has earned numerous awards for her reporting, including several Best Reporter awards from the Associated Press and the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and a regional Murrow Award. She served on the Ohio Associated Press Broadcasters Board of Directors from 2007 - 2009.