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3 American Prisoners Held By North Korea Were Released Ahead of the Trump-Kim Summit

In a move that appears to set the stage for the upcoming summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, North Korea has released three American prisoners from its custody during Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to the country on Wednesday.

Trump announced the Americans’ release in a tweet on Wednesday morning, writing, “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.”

The three Americans flew with Pompeo on his government plane from Pyongyang and will arrive at Joint Base Andrews outside of Washington D.C. early Thursday, The Washington Post reports.

“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!” Trump wrote in a subsequent tweet.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement on Wednesday that Trump “appreciates leader Kim Jong Un’s action to release these American citizens, and views this as a positive gesture of goodwill. The three Americans appear to be in good condition and were all able to walk on the plane without assistance. All Americans look forward to welcoming them home and to seeing them reunited with their loved ones.”

According to ABC News, the three American prisoners — Kim Dong Chul, Kim Hak Song and Kim Sang Duk, also known as Tony Kim — had all been imprisoned in North Korea from more than a year.

Kim Dong Chul, a South Korean-born American businessman, was arrested in 2015 after being accused of working with a South Korean spy agency and trying to meet with a former North Korean soldier to obtain classified information, ABC News reports. The agency, however, denied any involvement with Kim. He is the longest-known American prisoner of North Korea.

The other two prisoners, Kim Hak Song and Tony Kim, both worked at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology. According to ABC News, the two men were charged with “hostile acts” against North Korea last year.

The three Americans released a joint statement after their release: “We would like to express our deep appreciation to the United States government, President Trump, Secretary Pompeo, and the people of the United States for bringing us home,” the three freed Americans said in a statement. “We thank God, and all of our families and friends who prayed for us and our return. God Bless America, the greatest nation in the world.”

Pompeo was in North Korea to finalize the details for the upcoming Trump-Kim summit, which is said to take place in Singapore, but Trump said on Wednesday that he would make the formal announce of the date and location of the summit in three days, CNN reports.

Trump had note made the release of the three men a prerequisite for the summit, but in Washington, the move was viewed as a trust-building measure ahead of the meeting. Sanders said that the Americans’ release was a “step in the right direction,” but still noted that “total denuclearization remains [the administration’s] top priority.”

Aboard the plane, Pompeo told reporters that the meeting between him and the North Korean leader was “very productive” and said there were “no glitches,” The Post reports.

“I think that Chairman Kim is trying to set good conditions for the summit,” Pompeo said.

Emily Veith was previously the Branded Content Copywriter at Her Campus, where she works to create fun and engaging native editorial and social content. Emily has also authored political articles for Restless Magazine and numerous inspirational and empowering pieces for Project Wednesday. When she isn't writing, she can be found flying off to her next adventure, attempting new recipes, listening to one of her infinite playlists on Spotify, or cuddling with her dogs. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter @emilycveith.
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