North Korea has freed three US citizens from prison as a goodwill gesture ahead of a historic summit between President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un.
This was confirmed in a tweet by Mr Trump, who said he would greet the men when they return with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has been in Pyongyang to arrange the planned talks.
Kim Hak-song, Tony Kim and Kim Dong-chu – who had been jailed for anti-state activities and placed in labour camps – were able to “walk on the plane without assistance”, the White House said.
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
“They seem to be in good health,” Trump wrote, adding that a date and location had been set for talks after Mr Pompeo held a “good meeting” with Kim Jong-un.
In his tweet, Mr Trump added that he will personally greet the detainees when they arrive at Andrews Air Force Base at 02:00 EDT (06:00GMT) on Thursday.
In a later statement, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said that Mr Trump “appreciates” the move and “views this as a positive gesture of goodwill”, BBC writes.
I had productive meetings in Pyongyang with Chairman Kim Jong-un and made progress. I'm delighted to bring home three Americans.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) May 9, 2018
South Korea has reacted to the move, with the presidential Blue House saying it welcomed the release of the Americans which would have a “positive effect” for upcoming negotiations.
Blue House spokesman Yoon Young-chan also called upon the North to release six South Korean prisoners.
“In order to reinforce reconciliation between South Korea and North Korea and to spread peace on the Korean peninsula, we wish for a swift repatriation of South Korean detainees,” Mr Yoon said.