Pompeo returning from North Korea with 3 American detainees, Trump says

(CBSNews) -- President Trump tweeted early Wednesday morning that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is on his way back from North Korea with 3 American detainees. "They seem to be in good health. Also, good meeting with Kim Jong Un. Date & Place set," Mr. Trump added. 

Mr. Trump said that Pompeo along with the detainees will be landing at Joint Andrews Air Force Base at 2:00 A.M. "I will be there to greet them. Very exciting!" he added. 

The longest-imprisoned of the three, Kim Dong Chul, had been sentenced in April 2016 to 10 years hard labor for espionage. The two others -- Kim Hak Song and Tony Kim -- were working at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology when they were detained about a year ago.

Little is known about why the three were detained or what conditions they faced in North Korean custody.

The news comes as Mr. Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are making plans for a summit that could happen within weeks. Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in held a historic meeting in the Demilitarized Zone on April 27, agreeing to work toward denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula and discussing plans to declare a formal end to the Korean War.

Signs that the prisoners' release might be imminent emerged last week amid unconfirmed reports that the detainees had been moved from prisons to a hotel in or near the capital, Pyongyang.

Asked on May 3 about their possible release, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, "We think that that would be an incredible sign of goodwill, and certainly a great statement for the North Koreans to make ahead of the summit and the discussions."

Mr. Trump has said his administration was "fighting very diligently" to see the three men released, and he hinted on Twitter that more information might be coming.

"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. Stay Tuned!" he tweeted Wednesday.

The release of the three Americans comes 11 months after another American detainee, 22-year-old college student Otto Warmbier, was sent home from North Korea in a coma. Warmbier never recovered consciousness and died a week later.

Warmbier was detained in January 2016 while visiting North Korea at the end of a five-day tour. He was later sentenced to 15 years hard labor for allegedly stealing a propaganda banner at his hotel. 

Share this article: