NORTH Korea has called itself the “biggest victim” over the death of an American student it detained for more than a year, who died days after being released in a coma.

Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) denied North Korea cruelly treated or tortured Otto Warmbier and accused the United States and South Korea of a smear campaign that insulted its “humanitarian” treatment of him.

The comments were North Korea’s first reaction to Warmbier’s death in a US hospital on Monday after it released him for what it called humanitarian reasons.

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Doctors at the hospital said Warmbier had suffered a severe neurological injury from an unknown cause.

Relatives say they were told the university student, 22 had been in a coma since just after he was sentenced to 15 years’ hard labour in North Korea in March 2016.

His family and others have blamed North Korea for his condition. Warmbier was accused of stealing a propaganda poster.

Through KCNA, North Korea said it dealt with him according to its domestic law and international standards.

The regime also said “groundless” speculation of torture and beatings could be refuted by American doctors who examined Warmbier before his release and allegedly acknowledged North Korean doctors had “brought him back to life” after his heart nearly stopped.

The regime spokesman said: “To make it clear, we are the biggest victim of this incident and there would be no more foolish judgment than to think we do not know how to calculate gains and losses,” the spokesman said.

“The smear campaign against DPRK staged in the US compels us to make firm determination that humanitarianism and benevolence for the enemy are a taboo and we should further sharpen the blade of law,” the spokesman added.

The spokesman said it was a “mystery” as to why Warmbier died days after returning home, but compared his death to the case of American detainee Evan Hunziker. He was detained in North Korea for months in 1996 for illegally crossing the border and killed himslef less than a month after returning to the US later that year.