Three Americans detained in North Korea returning back home, Donald Trump announces
THREE Americans detained in North Korea for more than a year are on their way back to the US with secretary of state Mike Pompeo, Donald Trump has announced.
The move is the latest sign of improving relations between the two long-time adversaries.
Mr Trump said on Twitter that Mr Pompeo is "in the air" and was with "the 3 wonderful gentlemen that everyone is looking so forward to meeting".
He said the detainees, "seem to be in good health".
The president, who had been hinting about an imminent release, said he would greet them at Andrews Air Force Base at 2am on Thursday (7am BST).
The release of the detainees came as Mr Pompeo visited North Korea on Wednesday to finalise plans for a historic summit between Mr Trump and the North's leader, Kim Jong Un.
Mr Trump said on Twitter that there had been a "good meeting with Kim Jong Un", adding: "Date & Place set."
North Korea had accused Kim Dong Chul, Kim Hak Song and Tony Kim, all Korean-Americans, of anti-state activities, but their arrests were widely seen as politically motivated and had compounded the dire state of relations over the isolated nation's nuclear weapons.
They had been held for periods ranging between one and two years. The trio were the latest in a series of Americans who have been detained by North Korea in recent years for seemingly small offences and typically freed when senior US officials or statesmen personally visited to bail them out.
Mr Pompeo, in his visit, discussed the agenda for a potential Trump-Kim summit in a meeting with Kim Yong Chol, vice chairman of the central committee of North Korea's ruling party.
Later, Mr Pompeo said the senior official had been a great partner in working to make the summit a success.
"For decades, we have been adversaries. Now we are hopeful that we can work together to resolve this conflict," Mr Pompeo said, adding that "there are many challenges along the way".
Mr Kim noted the improved relations between the Koreas, as well as the North's policy to "concentrate all efforts into economic progress" in the country.
"This is not a result of sanctions that have been imposed from outside," he added, citing the will of the Korean people.
That contradicted Mr Trump, who has said repeatedly that his pressure tactics brought North Korea to the negotiating table.