June 23 (UPI) -- North Korea denied allegations that American student Otto Warmbier had been mistreated while in Pyongyang's custody, and blamed the U.S. administration of President Barack Obama for his death.
The North Korean statement comes as sources in the country say Warmbier was also punished for allegedly wrapping his shoes in North Korean newspaper that included a photograph of leader Kim Jong Un.
A North Korean spokesman for Pyongyang's foreign ministry told KCNA Friday the regime made their best efforts to treat Warmbier and that North Korea is "the biggest victim of this incident."
"Although there was no reason for us to have compassion for hostile criminals, taking into consideration his worsening health we provided care to the utmost, on humanitarian grounds, until he was repatriated to the United States," the spokesman said. "It is also a mystery to us why Warmbier suddenly died less than a week after he returned to the United States, his life in a normal state."
The 22-year-old Ohio native returned home in a coma.
The North Korean representative also faulted Obama's policy of "strategic patience."
"Warmbier was gripped by extreme hostility toward us and is the victim of Obama's policy of strategic patience, which rejected talks with us," the foreign ministry spokesman said, according to KCNA.
North Korea issued a statement last July threatening to shut down its New York channel of communication with the United States, while refusing to talk with diplomats about the detainees.
Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in March 2016 for allegedly taking down a North Korea propaganda banner.
Sources in Pyongyang say, however, Warmbier faced other charges that were not made public at the press conference in 2016.
Choi Sung-ryong, an activist who represents the families of people abducted to North Korea, told Japanese news agency Kyodo that Warmbier was arrested for packing his shoes in old newspaper featuring photographs of the North Korean leader.
Choi said he received the information from North Korean sources in Pyongyang.