Will tensions escalate over the Warmbier affair?

Pressure on US President Donald Trump is growing after the death of Otto Warmbier. Influential Republicans are demanding a firm response to the American student's death. Warmbier died in his home state of Ohio on Monday, shortly after being evacuated to the US after serving 18 months of a 15-year prison sentence in North Korea. Europe's press is deeply concerned about the diplomatic crisis.

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Le Figaro (FR) /

Dangerous conflict between hot-headed leaders

The already tense relations between the two countries could now spiral out of control, Le Figaro fears:

“Korea's reckless nuclear development had already exacerbated the conflict with the US. Now the drama over Otto Warmbier threatens to further escalate the tensions. Because this incident is a perfect excuse for the hawks in the White House. It has all the necessary emotional appeal to fan the flames in an atmosphere that's already charged over North Korea's missile tests in Northeast Asia. Will Trump and Kim Jong-un be able to cool things down? These two political newbies whose impetuous behaviour has enabled them to rise to the top of their respective dynasties have a shared love for stunts and headlines. Experts stress that a 'military option' could set the entire region on fire. De-escalation is therefore urgently necessary.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Trump has little leeway for sanctions

The US has little room to manoeuvre vis-à-vis North Korea, Der Standard comments:

“North Korea's regime has the 22-year-old on its conscience. There's little sign here of a rational strategy, ultimately Pyongyang has mainly harmed its own interests with the de-facto murder. The US government, which will sit down this week for negotiations with the Chinese side, will call for tougher sanctions against North Korea and step up its isolation policy. Nevertheless Trump's verbal condemnation can't hide the fact that the leeway for sanctions is almost exhausted. China isn't about to let itself be forced into suspending the oil deliveries that are so important for Pyongyang. And Donald Trump isn't going to risk a military first strike.”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

A chance for the US president

The Tages-Anzeiger believes that Trump could actually benefit from the Warmbier case:

“The struggling US president, who for weeks has been trapped in the quagmire of the Russian affair, needs hero stories. But above all he needs new enemies who can divert attention from the tiresome investigations against members of his campaign team. Trump claims he personally tasked his foreign secretary, Rex Tillerson, with pushing for the release of the 22-year-old student, which the Americans succeeded with. The public reacted with shock to the emotionally charged pictures of a comatose Warmbier; the brutality of the North Korean regime suddenly had a new face. The calls for a tougher course are already growing louder. Trump must now react.”

Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

Left still supports Pyongyang

The glorification of the regime in North Korea by certain sections of the left in the West is increasingly incomprehensible in the eyes of Dagens Nyheter:

“With reference to North Korea the Communist Party [in Sweden] writes among other things: 'We admire North Korea's firm stand against imperialism and for peace and reconciliation on the North Korean peninsula.' The Revolutionary Communist Youth organisation adds: 'The North Korean example shows that despite everything socialism is the superior system.' It's staggering that in 2017 there are still people in the West who see conciliatory aspects in a regime armed with nuclear weapons that keeps its own people imprisoned and tortures and starves them. The left's misguided path is evident in its support for dictatorships like the one that has just murdered Otto Warmbier.”