President Trump announced on Wednesday that three Americans who were being held by North Korea have been released.
“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,” Trump tweeted early Wednesday. “They seem to be in good health.”
Pompeo flew to Pyongyang on Tuesday to meet with Kim Jong Un ahead of Trump’s planned summit with the North Korean leader. Trump described it as a “good meeting” and said a date and time for his summit with Kim has been set.
Trump added: “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!”
Those “guests” are Korean-American businessman and missionary Kim Dong-chul, who was arrested in 2015 for alleged espionage, and teachers Kim Sang-duk, also known as Tony Kim, and Kim Hak-song. No other Americans are believed to be in jail in North Korea.
“We are grateful for the release of our husband and father and the two other American detainees,” the family of Tony Kim said in a statement. “We want to thank all of those who have worked toward and contributed to his return home. We also want to thank the president for engaging directly with North Korea. Mostly, we thank God for Tony’s safe return home.”
Speculation about the release of detainees had been swirling for a week. On May 2, Trump referenced the hostages in a tweet that falsely accused the Obama administration of failing to secure their release. Two of the three were arrested after Obama left office.
“As everybody is aware, the past Administration has long been asking for three hostages to be released from a North Korean Labor camp, but to no avail,” the president wrote. “Stay tuned!”
Trump’s lawyer, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, drew ridicule last week when he told Fox News, incorrectly, that the detainees would be released the same day.
“President Trump appreciates leader Kim Jong Un’s action to release these American citizens, and views this as a positive gesture of goodwill,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement later Wednesday. “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.”