Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has secured the release of three American citizens detained in North Korea after meeting with that country's president, Kim Jong-Un, this week, President Donald Trump announced Wednesday.
Trump, who announced the detainees’ release via Twitter, will meet them and Pompeo at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland at 2 a.m. Thursday, he said.
“Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in the air and on his way back from North Korea with the 3 wonderful gentlemen that everyone is looking so forward to meeting,” Trump tweeted Wednesday morning. “They seem to be in good health.”
I am pleased to inform you that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in the air and on his way back from North Korea with the 3 wonderful gentlemen that everyone is looking so forward to meeting. They seem to be in good health. Also, good meeting with Kim Jong Un. Date & Place set.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 9, 2018
Secretary Pompeo and his “guests” will be landing at Andrews Air Force Base at 2:00 A.M. in the morning. I will be there to greet them. Very exciting!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 9, 2018
Pompeo’s talks with Kim were the second such meeting between the two as the new secretary of state paves the way for an historic summit between Trump and Kim that is, tentatively, planned for next month.
Trump said it was a “good meeting” with Kim.
The three Americans released Wednesday were Christian missionary Kim Hak-song, detained in May 2017; Pyongyang University of Science and Technology employee Tony Kim, detained in April 2017; and pastor Kim Dong-chul, held since 2015.
Pompeo secured the detainees’ release less than two weeks after he was confirmed by the Senate in a 57-42 vote — on his first foreign trip as secretary of state.
The news comes as little surprise to most experts on U.S.-Korea relations.
South Korean presidential officials told news outlets there earlier in the week that they expected Pyongyang to release the three Americans as a sign of goodwill ahead of Trump and Kim’s tentative summit, which will focus on denuclearizing the Korean peninsula.
Trump teased last week in a tweet that the detainees might be released soon.
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!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 3, 2018
Trump announced last Friday that the time, date, and place had been set for his summit with Kim, but also provided himself an out by indicating the planned meeting could still fall through if the North took any hostile steps before then.
“We have our meeting set. The location is picked. The time and date, everything is picked,” Trump said.
“We will see how it all works out. Maybe it won’t. But it can be a great thing for North Korea, South Korea and the entire world.”
The North regularly arrests and holds foreign nationals on charges of espionage and hostile acts as a foreign policy bargaining tactic to milk concessions from the detainees’ home countries.
The last American North Korea released, 22-year-old college student Otto Warmbier, died shortly after returning to the U.S. after being held for more than a year for allegedly stealing a propaganda sign in the hotel he was staying in. He fell into a coma while in North Korean captivity.
Watch: Trump Thanks Kanye Again, Mocks Obama on North Korea