Trump announces 3 US citizens detained in North Korea are now free and on their way home

  • President Donald Trump announced on Wednesday that the three US citizens detained in North Korea were on their way back to the US with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who had met with North Korean officials in Pyongyang.
  • Trump also said Pompeo had set a time and place for a summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
  • The US detainees may have been mistreated and undergone “education” to coach them on talking about their detention.

President Donald Trump announced on Wednesday that the three US citizens detained in North Korea were on their way back to the US with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who had met with North Korean officials in Pyongyang.

Trump also said Pompeo had set the time and place for a summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“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,” Trump tweeted. “Also, good meeting with Kim Jong Un. Date & Place set.”

The release of the three Americans comes after a long back-and-forth between the US and North Korea and a meeting between Pompeo and Kim in April.

Detaining US citizens in North Korea gives Pyongyang leverage in possible negotiations with Washington. Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, had urged North Korea to release them as a show of their sincerity before talks between Trump and Kim.

The three US citizens – Kim Dong-chul, Kim Sang-duk (known as Tony Kim), and Kim Hak-song – had been released from a labour camp and given “health treatment and ideological education” in Pyongyang, the Financial Times reported earlier this month.

North Korea keeps about 100,000 political prisoners in labour camps that have been likened to Nazi concentration camps.

A report from the South Korean newspaper Dong-a Ilbo indicated that the education for the three US citizens may have included coaching them to say that human-rights abuses had not been committed during their detainment.

Human rights remains a thorny topic for North Korea, accused of being one of the worst violators in the world. The US State Department has pledged to confront North Korea on the subject, though it has largely been avoided in inter-Korean talks.

The latest US citizen released by North Korea, Otto Warmbier, came home in a coma in June and died days later.

North Korea has signalled a commitment to denuclearization and said it would stop its nuclear and missile tests, though it has dropped a demand for the withdrawal of US forces from the Korean Peninsula and avoided calling for an end to the US’s annual military exercises with South Korea as a condition for giving up its nuclear program.

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