Joseph Yun
PHOTO: CNN
Joseph Yun
Now playing
02:30
Ex-government official confirms signing $2M pledge
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
03:44
Acting US Capitol Police chief explains 'operational challenges' from January 6 riot
Rep. Marie Newman (D-IL) speaks with CNN
PHOTO: CNN
Rep. Marie Newman (D-IL) speaks with CNN's Alisyn Camerota.
Now playing
07:17
Lawmaker reacts to Rep. Taylor Greene's tweet on her transgender daughter
Connolly
PHOTO: CNN
Connolly
Now playing
03:51
'I will not be lectured' on bipartisanship: Lawmaker fires back at Jim Jordan
US President Donald Trump speaks to the press from the South Lawn of the White House after announcing and initial deal with China in Washington, DC, prior to departing to Lake Charles, Louisiana to hold a campaign rally on October 11, 2019.
PHOTO: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images
US President Donald Trump speaks to the press from the South Lawn of the White House after announcing and initial deal with China in Washington, DC, prior to departing to Lake Charles, Louisiana to hold a campaign rally on October 11, 2019.
Now playing
02:28
Romney says he's 'pretty sure' Trump will win 2024 nomination if he runs
Now playing
02:04
Senate moderates create obstacle for Biden's nominee
This picture taken 26 December 2011 shows the Pentagon building in Washington, DC.  The Pentagon, which is the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense (DOD), is the world
PHOTO: Staff/AFP/Getty Images
This picture taken 26 December 2011 shows the Pentagon building in Washington, DC. The Pentagon, which is the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense (DOD), is the world's largest office building by floor area, with about 6,500,000 sq ft (600,000 m2), of which 3,700,000 sq ft (340,000 m2) are used as offices. Approximately 23,000 military and civilian employees and about 3,000 non-defense support personnel work in the Pentagon. (Photo credit should read STAFF/AFP via Getty Images)
Now playing
04:30
Pentagon report gives insight on White supremacists in active military
Now playing
03:57
GOP senator continues to push riot conspiracy theory
Now playing
02:08
Cabinet secretary explains why he took on challenging role
Rep. Debra Haaland (D-NM), President Joe Biden
PHOTO: Leigh Vogel/Pool/Getty Images
Rep. Debra Haaland (D-NM), President Joe Biden's nominee for Secretary of the Interior, testifies during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resource, at the U.S. Capitol on February 24, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Now playing
00:59
'We need to work together': Haaland responds to question on blind loyalty
Now playing
01:35
Laughter follows awkward moment between GOP leaders
PHOTO: AFP/Getty Images/CNN
Now playing
03:11
Cabrera: GOP suddenly cares about mean tweets ... just not Trump's
Now playing
03:20
Avlon on Ron Johnson: Hyperpartisan denial is a hell of a drug
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06: Pro-Trump supporters storm the U.S. Capitol following a rally with President Donald Trump on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. Trump supporters gathered in the nation
PHOTO: Samuel Corum/Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06: Pro-Trump supporters storm the U.S. Capitol following a rally with President Donald Trump on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. Trump supporters gathered in the nation's capital today to protest the ratification of President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College victory over President Trump in the 2020 election. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)
Now playing
03:04
Capitol officials say riot was planned and involved white supremacists
Then-President Donald Trump addresses supporters during a Make America Great Again rally in Erie, Pennsylvania, October 20, 2020.
PHOTO: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
Then-President Donald Trump addresses supporters during a Make America Great Again rally in Erie, Pennsylvania, October 20, 2020.
Now playing
02:44
What Trump's released tax records mean for DA's criminal case
Now playing
02:51
'This is incredible': Burnett explains Trump's reported offer to Kim Jong Un
(CNN) —  

Joseph Yun, the former State Department Special Representative for North Korea, confirmed Monday that he signed an agreement to pay North Korea $2 million for the release of American student Otto Warmbier in 2017.

In an interview with CNN’s Jim Sciutto, Yun said that he did so with the approval of then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and that it was his understanding President Donald Trump had also signed off on the decision.

“As soon as North Korea side told me that this bill for $2 million would have to be paid … I contacted my boss then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson,” Yun said, noting that Tillerson “got back to me very quickly thereafter to say yes, go ahead and sign.”

The former US Special Representative added that it was his understanding the decision had been approved by Trump himself.

“That was my understanding. I never asked him, but that was my understanding,” he said when asked if he believed Tillerson had Trump’s approval.

The Trump administration has said no money has been paid for release of Warmbier, who was in a comatose state at the time of his release from North Korean custody and died a few days after returning to the United States.

Yun, now a CNN contributor, said he does not know if the Trump administration plans to pay, but believes the US should meet their end of the pledge and pay the North Koreans.

White House national security adviser John Bolton also confirmed on Sunday that Yun signed a document pledging $2 million for Warmbier’s release and that the US has not made any payments.

FOX News Sunday host Chris Wallace asked Bolton whether Joseph Yun got Warmbier out by signing a pledge, Bolton responded, “yes, that is what I am told” and that it happened before he joined the administration.

When pushed on the fact the US signed the document fully intending not to honor it, Bolton only said, “I don’t know the circumstances” and added that he had been looking into the issues the past few days and that “no money was paid, that is clear.”

The National Security Council declined to comment on whether Trump approved in advance then-Secretary Tillerson’s directive to have the medical bill signed, but a spokesman for the NSC pointed to Bolton’s comments to Fox News on Sunday.

“I think when people leave government, sometimes the recollection of things that happened inside tend to be a little different from what actually happened,” he said. “But it’s very clear to me from my looking into it in the past few days, no money was paid, that is clear.”

Bolton did not clarify which former government official he was referring to as both Tillerson and Yun have left the administration.

The Washington Post was first to report that North Korea presented Yun with the invoice.

Warmbier was detained by North Korean officials in January 2016 while attempting to return to the US from a tour of the country. He was returned to his family “with severe brain damage and in a nonresponsive state” on June 13, 2017, and died six days later.

Fred Warmbier, Otto’s father, told The Washington Post he had no previous knowledge of the bill, but characterized it as “ransom” for his deceased son.

Earlier this month, at an event attended by Otto Warmbier’s family, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo dismissed the idea of the US paying ransom for hostages.

“Please remember that any money to a terrorist or terrorist regime gives money so that they can seize more of our people,” he said. “We cannot accept that risk. You wouldn’t ask that of us.”

While the North Koreans did not bring up the bill during Trump’s summits with Kim Jong Un in Singapore and Vietnam, a source told CNN last week there is an expectation this payment could be brought up again.

That’s especially true because the ministry of foreign affairs in North Korea is gaining influence at the negotiating table, and they are the ones who handed Yun that bill, the source said.

While the Trump administration insists that it has not made any payments to the North Korean government, its handling of this situation could become an issue in the future, according to CNN national security analyst Samantha Vinograd.

“President Trump saying something that he has no intention of actually doing is nothing new nor is the North Koreans making ridiculous requests and this is a recurring cost in two ways,” she said.

“First of all, it signals that American citizens are cash cows. If you can kidnap a US citizen, torture them and keep them alive, that could result in an I-owe-you from the US government that really exposes Americans to more risk abroad,” Vinograd said.

“And second, President Trump kicked this can down the road but that doesn’t get rid of the can. This invoice becomes a bargaining chip the North Koreans can use in any other negotiation,” she added.

CNN’s Sarah Westwood and Joe Johns contributed to this report