Donald Trump thanks Kim Jong-un for releasing US prisoners from North Korea

11 05 2018

US flag(Daniel Hurst, Tokyo, 10 May 2018) President Trump has thanked Kim Jong-un for the release of three American prisoners who have begun to describe their detention in North Korea.

Kim Dong-chul, Kim Hak-song and Tony Kim, who were released after Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, met Kim Jong-un yesterday, were taken to hospital in Washington soon after their arrival in the early hours of this morning.

“I was treated in many different ways, but overall I had to do much labour and when I became ill I received some treatment,” Kim Dong-chul said, via a translator. In a joint statement, the men said: “We thank God, and all our families and friends who prayed for us and for our return. God bless America, the greatest nation in the world.”

They were met at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland by Mr Trump and his wife, Melania. “Congratulations on being in this country,” Mr Trump told them.

The president said he “very much appreciated” the fact that the North Korean leader had allowed the trio to return home before the forthcoming summit meeting. “Frankly we didn’t think it was going to happen and it did,” Mr Trump said of the goodwill gesture. “We’re starting off on a new footing. This is a wonderful thing that he released the folks early.”

Mr Trump said he hoped to achieve denuclearisation in the Korean peninsular during his summit with Mr Kim, expected to take place in Singapore within weeks. “I think we have a very good chance of doing something very meaningful,” he said. “My proudest achievement will be, this is part of it, when we denuclearize that entire peninsula.”

The prisoner release clears one of the final barriers to the historic talks between Mr Trump and Mr Kim. Mr Pompeo met Mr Kim for 90 minutes in Pyongyang before flying out of the country “with the three wonderful gentlemen that everyone is looking so forward to meeting”, a triumphant Mr Trump tweeted.

Mr Kim hailed the forthcoming summit as a historic meeting and an “excellent first step”. In comments published by North Korea’s official news agency, Mr Kim said it would contribute towards improving the situation on the Korean peninsula and the “building of a good future”.

The three American citizens were arrested for alleged hostile or subversive acts against North Korea but the charges were widely seen as politically motivated.

A North Korean official characterised the release as an amnesty and was reported to have told Mr Pompeo: “You should take care that they do not make the same mistakes again. This was a hard decision.”

The men were flown to Japan, where they transferred to another plane that carried medical specialists and equipment. It made a stopover in Alaska before proceeding to Maryland.

Kim Dong-chul is a South Korean-born businessman and missionary in his early sixties who was taken into custody nearly three years ago and sentenced to ten years’ hard labour.

The other detainees had worked as academics at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology. Kim Hak-song, who was born in China and educated in the US and is thought to be 55, was intercepted at a railway station a year ago and prevented from returning to his home in the Chinese border region of Dandong.

Tony Kim, 59, also known as Kim Sang-duk, had been on a short-term teaching assignment at the university before his arrest at Pyongyang International Airport in April last year. A religious man, he was believed to have been helping at an orphanage in North Korea.

Advertisements