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Trump: 3 Americans Detained in N. Korea Released, Heading Home


FILE - A combination photo shows CIA Director Mike Pompeo, left, in Washington, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, in Pyongyang, North Korea, and U.S. President Donald Trump in Palm Beach, Florida.

President Donald Trump says three Americans who were detained in North Korea have been released and they are on their way home, accompanied by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Trump made the announcement on Twitter Wednesday, saying the "three seem to be in good health." Trump also said he plans to greet the released Americans when they land.

The news follows a visit to North Korea by Secretary of State Pompeo, who was in the country to prepare for the upcoming meeting between Trump and North Korea leader Kim Jong Un.

In a statement released later on Wednesday, the White House said Trump "appreciates leader Kim Jong Un’s action to release these American citizens, and views this as a positive gesture of goodwill."

Three Korean-Americans had been imprisoned in North Korea. Tony Kim and Kim Hak Song were teaching at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology. They were separately detained in 2017, and accused of participating in anti-state activities and trying to overthrow the government.

The third detainee, Kim Dong Chul, was arrested in Rason on the northeast tip of North Korea in October 2015. He was sentenced in 2016 to 10 years in prison with hard labor after being convicted of espionage.

The family of Toby Kim issued a statement thanking "all of those who have worked toward and contributed to his return home.''

FILE - In this image released by the White House, then-CIA director Mike Pompeo shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang, North Korea, during a 2018 East weekend trip.
FILE - In this image released by the White House, then-CIA director Mike Pompeo shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang, North Korea, during a 2018 East weekend trip.

A senior U.S. official present for the exchange of detainees told journalists traveling with Pompeo that a North Korean official told the secretary of state Kim had granted amnesties to the three detained Americans.

The former detainees were then brought to the airport and flew out of the Pyongyang aboard Pompeo's plane, which first headed for Yokota Air Base in Japan before continuing on to the United States.

The White House statement said the "three Americans appear to be in good condition and were all able to walk on the plane without assistance."

Pompeo’s latest trip to North Korea came just weeks after he met with Kim, and focused on the groundwork for the summit between Trump and Kim.

"We made substantial progress and agreed to further cooperate in jointly planning the summit. We also agreed to meet again in person to finalize the details," said a U.S. official who participated in talks.

Wednesday, Pompeo told reporters traveling with him that the United States and North Korea have settled on a place and timing for the Trump-Kim meeting, with details to be announced in the coming days. He noted that holding such a summit would have been more difficult had the Americans still been detained, and that there is still alot of work to do to reach the ultimate goal.

Earlier during his brief visit, Pompeo said the U.S. is committed to working with North Korea to establish peace on the Korean peninsula.

"For decades, we have been adversaries," Pompeo said. "Now we are hopefully that we can work together to resolve this conflict, take away threats to the world and make your country have all the opportunities your people so richly deserve. There are many challenges along the way. But you have been a great partner in working to make sure our two leaders will have a summit that is successful."

Later on Twitter, he called his meetings in Pyongyang "productive" and said he was "delighted to bring home three Americans."