All three are Evangelical Christians. Trump welcomed them in person along with First Lady Melania, Mike Pence and John Bolton. The US is optimistic about the upcoming summit. The date and place will be announced within three days with Singapore as the likely location.
Washington (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The three US nationals freed by Kim Jong-un returned home a few days before the summit with US President Donald Trump.
The three men were welcomed at the Joint Base Andrews by US President Donald Trump, his wife Melania, National Security Adviser John Bolton and Vice President Mike Pence.
The plane landed at around 2:40 am in Washington. In their trip home, the three were accompanied by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was on his second visit to Pyongyang.
After boarding the plane to welcome the freed hostages and escorting them down the airstair, Trump thanked Kim Jong-un for their release.
The US president said he believes Kim wants to bring North Korea into the "real world" and was hopeful that the long-anticipated summit with the North Korean leader might be a breakthrough.
North Korean media gave prominence to Pompey's visit, reporting that Kim decided to grant the Americans amnesty in response to an "official suggestion" from Trump.
As the aircraft flew over Alaska, the three men thanked the US government for "bringing us home". They also “thank[ed] God and all our families and friends who prayed for us and for our return".
The three are Evangelical Christians of Korean origin. Kim Dong-chul, 64, is a missionary who was arrested in North Korea on 2 October 2015 for allegedly spying and subversive acts. He ran a company in the North’s north-eastern Rason special economic zone.
Before his sentencing, the former Virginia resident publicly apologised for slandering North Korea’s leadership, collecting and passing confidential information to South Korea, and joining a smear campaign against the North’s human rights situation.
Tony Kim, who also goes by the Korean name Kim Sang-duk, was engaged in humanitarian work and had been teaching for a month at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST) when he was arrested.
Kim Hak-song, also a missionary, worked in agricultural development at an experimental farm run by PUST
All three were sent to a labour camp where political prisoners are believed to be subjected to harsh conditions.
The amnesty granted to the three US citizens appears be a sign of appeasement from Kim Jong-un ahead of the upcoming summit.
In his address, Trump noted that date and place for the meeting will be announced shortly, either in late May or early June, in Singapore.