North Korea frees 3 United States detainees

Mike Pompeo paves the way in Pyongyang for Trump-Kim summit

The family of Tony Kim, who was among a trio of US citizens held prisoner by North Korea before their release Wednesday, says they are grateful he is free and showed their gratitude to President Trump.

The first summit between a sitting USA president and a North Korean leader will take place in Singapore, CNN reported on Wednesday.

"Though we're not quite back home yet, I welcomed them back", he said, recounting his first words with the men after they were freed. They seem to be in good health.

During his 13-hour stay in Pyongyang, which Pompeo described as a good day, he met with Kim Jong-un to discuss the summit.

Kim is a former professor at Yanbian University of Science and Technology in China, close to the Korean border. It was their second encounter in less than six weeks to prepare the first-ever meeting between sitting USA and North Korean leaders.

The release of the detainees came as Pompeo visited North Korea on Wednesday to finalise plans for a historic summit between Trump and the North's leader, Kim Jong-un.

While Kim is giving up the last of his American detainees, whom North Korea has often used as bargaining chips with the United States, a release could also be aimed at pressuring Trump to make concessions of his own in his bid to get Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear arsenal, something it has not signaled a willingness to do. Trump announced the mission Tuesday afternoon as he laid out his case for withdrawing from a landmark nuclear deal with Iran, another bitter United States adversary. After Kim's release was announced, his family issued a statement through their lawyer.

Trump spoke with his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in following the release, telling him he expected it would positively affect the summit, according to the Blue House.

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Spokesman Yoon Young-chan also called upon the North to release six South Koreans it has in prison.

The Americans, Kim Dong Chul, Kim Hak-song and Kim Sang Duk, also known as Tony Kim, have been held in North Korea for months.

North Korean state media says they were arrested either for subversion or "hostile acts" against the government.

Trump said he very much looks forward to the summit with North Korea.

Speaking to reporters, Pompeo said his meetings in Pyongyang were "very productive".

Hopefully we didn't agree to lift sanctions or turn a blind eye to the Norks' nuclear pursuits as the price for this, but for now let's be happy for the men whose freedom has finally been won.

Later, Pompeo said the senior official had been a great partner in working to make the summit a success.

In the first instance, it may well be the mere presence of the US President at such talks which will give global legitimacy to the North Korean leader who craves respect. He has also previously cited Singapore as another possible site.

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