Trump promised “quite a scene” at Joint Base Andrews outside Washington for the detainees, who were released as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited North Korea on Wednesday to finalize plans for the summit. Singapore was the likely site, late this month or in early June, for Trump’s most ambitious foreign policy effort yet.
Shortly after they touched down on American soil in Alaska — for a refueling stop Wednesday afternoon— the State Department released a statement from the freed men.
“We would like to express our deep appreciation to the United States government, President Trump, Secretary Pompeo, and the people of the United States for bringing us home,” they 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.”
The men had boarded Pompeo’s plane out of North Korea without assistance and then transferred in Japan to a separate aircraft with more extensive medical facilities. They are expected to arrive at Joint Base Andrews outside Washington in the wee hours of Thursday morning.
Trump made a point of publicly thanking North Korea’s leader for the prisoners’ release — “I appreciate Kim Jong Un doing this” — and hailed it as a sign of cooling tensions and growing opportunity on the Korean peninsula.
Kim decided to grant amnesty to the three Americans at the “official suggestion” of the U.S. president, said North Korea’s official news agency, KCNA. North Korea had accused Kim Dong Chul, Kim Hak Song and Tony Kim, all Korean-Americans, of anti-state activities. Their arrests were widely seen as politically motivated and had compounded the dire state of relations over the isolated nation’s nuclear weapons.