Ji Seong-ho, a North Korean man who made it out of the rogue nation and now resides in South Korea, attended President Donald Trump's first State of the Union address Tuesday night.
Recognizing the guest, Trump told Ji's story, one of a starving boy in North Korea some 20 years ago, whose limbs were run over by a train after he collapsed in exhaustion on the tracks before enduring torture at the hands of North Korean authorities.
"Seong-ho traveled thousands of miles on crutches across China and Southeast Asia to freedom," Trump continued. "Most of his family followed. His father was caught trying to escape, and was tortured to death."
Trump said Ji was a "witness to the ominous nature" of the authoritarian North Korean government.
Alongside Ji were Fred and Cindy Warmbier, who were reunited last year with their son Otto shortly before he died after returning from 17 months of captivity in North Korea. The Warmbiers, along with their children Austin and Greta, attended the address where Trump pledged "to honor Otto's memory with American resolve."
Tensions between the United States and North Korea have ratcheted up since Trump took office, with North Korea continuing to develop its nuclear weapons and missile capability to international outrage. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un rang in the new year by appearing to extend a potential olive branch to South Korea and again threatening the US with his nuclear capability.
Trump, in turn, tweeted, "North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the 'Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.' Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!"
In his speech Tuesday, Trump said North Korea was an unparalleled oppressor and that its nuclear missiles "could very soon threaten our homeland."
"We are waging a campaign of maximum pressure to prevent that from happening," Trump said, reiterating his position to approach the issue differently than his predecessors.