Patrick J. Buchanan on Tuesday condemned North Korea as it released an imprisoned American student who now lies in a coma on the same day former basketball great Dennis Rodman jetted in to visit its ironfisted leader Kim Jung Un.
"It signals to me the character of the regime over there – which is horrendous. This is a horrible situation," the veteran conservative pundit told Newsmax TV's Steve Malzberg.
"It is not a coincidence to me that Rodman arrives and the release is done. But I think this is really a horrendous outrage against an American citizen."
The power forward who played for the Detroit Pistons, San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks has made at least five trips to North Korea since 2013 at the invitation of Kim, who he considers his "friend for life."
His trips have been highly controversial given the years-long saber-rattling between the U.S. and North Korea. But Rodman – nicknamed "The Worm" for his wild wriggling when playing pinball -- told reporters before jetting off from Beijing airport on Tuesday that he is "just trying to open a door" between the two nations.
The same day, North Korea released Otto Warmbier, an American undergraduate serving a 15-year prison term with hard labor for alleged anti-state acts after he tried to swipe a propaganda banner in 2016.
Warmbier's parents told The Washington Post he has been in a coma for more than a year after suffering from botulism.
Buchanan, who served as a senior advisor to Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan, and unsuccessfully ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 1992 and 1996, said he’s unsure what the next step should be.
"Now I don't know what you do right now given the fact that we're very almost at swords point over there in the Sea of Japan and with North Korea," Buchanan said.
"But this is really a palpable outrage and I would think that Donald Trump, the president, would really start putting greater pressure on the Chinese to deliver."
Buchanan is author of the new book, "Nixon's White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever," published by Crown Forum.
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