WASHINGTON.- Three Americans detained in North Korea for more than a year are on their way back to the U.S. with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, President Donald Trump announced Wednesday in the latest sign of improving relations between the two longtime adversary nations.
Trump said on Twitter that Pompeo was returning with “the 3 wonderful gentlemen that everyone is looking so forward to meeting.” The president, who had been hinting about an imminent release, said he would greet them at Joint Base Andrews outside Washington at 2 a.m. Thursday.
“I appreciate Kim Jong Un doing this and allowing them to go,” Trump said Wednesday before a meeting of his Cabinet.
The release of the detainees came as Pompeo visited North Korea on Wednesday to finalize plans for a historic summit between Trump and Kim, the North’s leader. Trump told reporters that the summit would not take place at the inter-Korean demilitarized zone, and that the venue would be announced within the next three days.
Singapore has emerged as the most likely place for the meeting late this month or in early June, officials have indicated.
North Korea had accused Kim Dong Chul, Kim Hak Song and Tony Kim, all Korean-Americans, of anti-state activities but their arrests were widely seen as politically motivated and had compounded the dire state of relations over the isolated nation’s nuclear weapons.