Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) secretly met with North Korean officials last December about potentially freeing U.S. student Otto Warmbier, according to The Columbus Dispatch.
Portman on Wednesday reportedly confirmed his interaction with North Korea’s delegation to the United Nations took place in New York City last year.
The Ohio senator said he brought photos of Warmbier to the huddle and urged North Korea’s government to allow the Swedish ambassador to North Korea access to Warmbier.
“I feel like I did not succeed in getting him home in the kind of condition we had hoped for,” Portman said of Warmbier. “But we got him home.”
Portman later Wednesday derided North Korea’s treatment of Warmbier during a speech on the Senate floor.
Warmbier, 22, died Monday less than one week after being flown from North Korea to the U.S. after 17 months of captivity in the former.
“Unfortunately, the awful torturous mistreatment our son received at the hands of the North Koreans ensured that no other outcome was possible beyond the sad one we experienced today,” his parents Fred and Cindy Warmbier said in a statement.
Warmbier had reportedly been in a coma for over a year before his death, a condition which North Korea blamed on a case of botulism.
North Korea’s high court sentenced Warmbier to 15 years in prison with hard labor after he confessed to trying to steal a political banner from Pyongyang.
Warmbier, a student of the University of Virginia, was traveling through North Korea through a tour group based in China.