In a remarkable development three U.S. prisoners, allegedly involved in subversive or hostile acts have reached Washington after getting released by North Korean government of Kim Jong-un.
According to Reuters, US President Donald Trump and his wife Melania personally reached a military base near Washington to welcome the released prisoners at 2.40 a.m. Thursday and thanked Kim Jong Un. “Frankly we didn’t think it was going to happen and it did,” he said.
He was looking upbeat for the planned summit between the two leaders sometime soon.
The three US prisoners were handed over to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who made a second visit to Pyongyang to lock down details of the upcoming summit between the two leaders.
Trump and his wife boarded the plane for several minutes before the men stepped out, shaking hands with the president and waving to waiting media and military personnel.
Reacting to Kim’s gesture of releasing the three US citizens, Trump said he really believed Kim wanted to bring North Korea “into the real world” and was hopeful of a major breakthrough at their planned summit.
Schedule and venue of US-North Korea summit has not yet been announced. However, Singapore has emerged as the most likely venue for the summit. Trump has earlier ruled out holding the summit at the heavily fortified demilitarized zone between North and South Korea.
The three US citizens released by North Korean regime include: Kim Dong-chul, a Korean-American missionary, detained in 201, Kim Sang-duk, also known as Tony Kim, who spent a month teaching at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST) before he was arrested in 2017; and Kim Hak-song, who also taught at PUST and was detained last year.
After landing at Alaska for stopover in the United States before reaching Washington, the three released prisoners issued a joint statement, saying, “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.”
Earlier North Korean media said that the three Americans were arrested either for subversion or “hostile acts” against the government.
Observers believe that the release of the prisoners has given Trump an opportunity of claiming a diplomatic achievement soon after his decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal.
Meanwhile, New York Times observes that the release of the three American prisoners cleared away a last obstacle on Wednesday to a landmark nuclear summit meeting between President Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un. It also called the North Korea’s move as “the most tangible gesture aimed improving relations with US since Trump took office”.
The US administration has persistently demanded the release of its three citizens, who have all been held on charges of committing espionage or unidentified “hostile acts” against North Korea. Two of them were arrested after Trump occupied White House last year.