US secretary of state Mike Pompeo has secured the release of three Americans who had been in North Korean jail, US President Donald Trump has announced, ahead of a historic US-North Korea summit.
The three former prisoners are in “good health” and are en-route to the US accompanied by Pompeo, the President said via Twitter. One of the detainees was jailed in 2015, while the other two have been incarcerated for more than a year.
Trump added that the date and location have been fixed for the much anticipated US-North Korea summit, which both he and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un are set to attend.
It’s thought the meeting will happen in late May or early June, but the location remains under wraps. Previous reports have suggested it could be in the peace village between North Korea and South Korea — something Trump has signalled his approval of.
Trump said via Twitter:
I am pleased to inform you that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in the air and on his way back from North Korea with the three wonderful gentlemen that everyone is looking so forward to meeting.
They seem to be in good health. Also, good meeting with Kim Jong-un. Date and place set.
Secretary Pompeo and his “guests” will be landing at Andrews Air Force Base at 2:00 A.M. in the morning. I will be there to greet them. Very exciting!
I am pleased to inform you that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in the air and on his way back from North Korea with the 3 wonderful gentlemen that everyone is looking so forward to meeting. They seem to be in good health. Also, good meeting with Kim Jong Un. Date & Place set.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 9, 2018
The announcement came as Pompeo wrapped up a last-minute, whirlwind trip to the Democratic Republic of North Korea.
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Before the trip, Pompeo told reporters that the visit was designed to lay the groundwork for upcoming talks.
Pompeo said via Twitter ahead of his arrival in North Korea:
Headed back to
#DPRK at the invitation of the North Korean leadership. I look forward to planning a successful summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-un.
Headed back to #DPRK at the invitation of the North Korean leadership. I look forward to planning a successful summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-un.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) May 8, 2018
The deal marks a coup for the new secretary of state with the release of the detainees being a central issue for the US in the run-up to talks.
The last American to be released, Otto Warmbier, died soon after he returned home from unknown causes — though many have suggested he was mistreated by his North Korean captors.
Hours before the prisoners were released today, South Korean news agency Yonhap hinted at the news, quoting a South Korean official saying that Pyongyang was expected to release the US citizens as a “goodwill gesture” before the talks take place.
We’ve been asking for the release of these detainees for 17 months.