Professor Robert F. Turner from the University of Virginia School of Law says ''we have very little influence'' over North Korea, in reference to student Otto Warmbier who's just been sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in the state. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) Professor Robert F. Turner from the University of Virginia School of Law said, "It's very easy to make the case that this was an extreme punishment for a relatively minor offense," in reference to sentenced UVA student Otto Warmbier but "they're going to argue that this was just short of blasphemy." Warmbier was convicted for trying to steal a banner invoking former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor by North Korea's supreme court. The United States condemned the punishment as politically motivated and called on North Korea to pardon the University of Virginia student from Wyoming, Ohio, and release him on humanitarian grounds. But Turner said even though he feels sorry for Warmbier, "Kim Jong Un is just short of a God there and if you violate their laws, you're subject to their laws." "We have very little influence, we've never had diplomatic relations with North Korea," said Turner. "North Korea obviously is interested in affecting our policy but right now the relationship is about as bad as it's ever been." The sentencing came as North Korea is increasingly isolated and facing tough new U.N. resolutions following a nuclear test in January and a rocket launch last month. A White House spokesman said it was "increasingly clear" North Korea sought to use U.S. citizens as pawns to pursue a political agenda. North Korean state media said Warmbier had tried to steal an item bearing a political slogan. A state media picture showed a banner, presented as evidence during his one-hour trial, appearing to bear a slogan extolling the country's late leader. Although the name was censored in the photograph, it is likely the slogan read: "Let's arm ourselves strongly with Kim Jong Il patriotism!" Warmbier was at the end of a five-day group tour when he was stopped at the airport and taken away, according to the tour operator that arranged the trip.