Donald Trump was due to have dinner on Saturday with the parents of Otto Warmbier, an American college student who died in 2017 shortly after being freed from captivity in North Korea.
An administration official said the president was to host Fred and Cindy Warmbier, whose son was convicted of trying to steal a propaganda poster while in the North Korea capital and spent 17 months in prison.
He died at age 22 just days after being returned to the United States in a vegetative state.
Doctors in Cincinnati said Warmbier had suffered severe brain damage, although they were not sure what led to it. North Korea denied mistreating him, saying he fell into a coma that resulted from botulism and a sleeping pill.
Fred and Cindy Warmbier, from Cincinnati, say their son was tortured in prison and they were angered by Trump’s comments this spring that he took North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “at his word” that he was unaware of any mistreatment.
Trump later tweeted: “Of course I hold North Korea responsible for Otto’s mistreatment and death.” The tweet made no mention of Kim, with whom Trump is pursuing nuclear talks.
A law firm representing the Warmbier family did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Trump’s ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, was expected to join the dinner. Officials say he is among the 15 candidates Trump is considering to replace ousted national security adviser John Bolton.