President Donald Trump welcomed home three American prisoners who were held captive in North Korea. The ex-prisoners waved and smiled as they were greeted by the President upon their arrival at a US military base in Washington. The three, namely Kim Hak-song, Kim Dong-chul, and Kim Sang-duk, were all given amnesty by Kim Jong Un after a two-year detention in the North Korean labor camps. They were accused of committing crimes against the regime.
The prisoners told reporters that the moment they touched down in the US felt like a dream. President Trump thanked Kim Jong Un and said that he was really optimistic about the planned talks between them. Trump added that he’s convinced that the North Korean dictator wants to do something to bring the “hermit kingdom” into the real world. The President is optimistic that there’s a very real chance of achieving something meaningful after decades of escalating tensions in the Korean peninsula.
The plane that carried the three American prisoners touched down at Joint Base Andrews at 2:42 A.M. ET. Mike Pompeo, the recently confirmed US Secretary of State accompanied the trio in their 20-hour long flight from Pyongyang. Pompeo had been on an official visit in North Korea to finalize plans for the grand summit between President Trump and Kim Jong Un.
The President was accompanied by first lady Melania Trump as he walked up the stairs of the plane carrying the former detainees and shook their hands. The three were later taken to the Walter Reed Medical Center where it was confirmed that they were in good health. Trump told reporters at the Joint Base that this was a very “special night” for the three Americans, adding that they have “gone through a lot” during their time in North Korea. The President went on to pay tribute to the 22-year-old University of Virginia student Otto Warmbier who died shortly after he was released from a North Korean labor camp.
Kim Jong Un has announced a number of major decisions in the last few months that could streamline talks with the US in the coming weeks. The North Korean leader first accepted to close a major nuclear testing site in what many analysts called a show of good faith. He also announced that he will not be putting any preconditions for talks with South Korea and the US. Pyongyang has stated that it’s ready to negotiate denuclearization as long as there will be security guarantees from the US.
The release of American prisoners is yet another step that could possibly indicate that Pyongyang is warming up to the idea of diplomacy in addressing the conflict in the Korean Peninsula. Last month, Kim Jong Un also suspended nuclear and missile tests stating that his country doesn’t need these tests anymore. Instead, he chose to focus on economic growth amid biting international economic sanctions. The upcoming summit could make or break any possible diplomatic solution for the Korean conflict. However, so far, it looks like the US, South Korean, and North Korean leaders are ready to sit and talk.