North Korea Releases US Prisoners Ahead Of Historic Trump Summit

North Korea has released three U.S. citizens from years-long detentions in a suspected labor camp, giving them medical treatment and "ideological education" at a hotel near Pyongyang, says human rights advocate Choi Sung-ryong, as reported by the Financial Times

Choi Sung-ryong, a representative of the families of the prisoners, told South Korean news outlet Naver: "We talked with a source in North Korea today. North Korean authorities released Kim Dong-cheol, Kim Sang-deok and Kim Hak-seong, who were in jail at the labor correction center in early April, and they are currently in a ‘course’ where they are treated and educated at a hotel outside Pyongyang.” -IB Times

“We heard it through our sources in North Korea late last month. We believe that Mr Trump can take them back on the day of the US-North Korea summit or he can send an envoy to take them back to the US before the summit,” said Mr Choi.

Among the three detainees, Kim Dong-cheol, a South Korean-born American pastor, was arrested by North Korea in 2015 on charges of spying and sentenced in 2016 to 10 years of hard labour. Kim Hak-seong and Kim Sang-deok, both working for Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, were detained last year on suspicion of “hostile acts”. -FT

Newly minted National Security Advisor John R. Bolton told Fox News on Sunday "If North Korea releases the detained Americans before the North-US summit, it will be an opportunity to demonstrate their authenticity.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is believed to have discussed the release of the three Americans during his clandestine meeting in Pyongyang with the North Korean leader over Easter Weekend - while President Trump confirmed last week that the two countries had been negotiating for their release.

Those watching North Korea say Pyongyang has been very careful to monitor the American detainees' health following the mysterious death of US university student Otto Warmbier - who died six days after he was released by North Korea last June. 

Otto was taken hostage, kept as a prisoner for political purposes, used as a pawn and singled out for exceptionally harsh and brutal treatment by Kim Jong Un,” his father said in a press conference held one day before North and South Korea held their historic summit.

The Warmbier family is currently suing North Korea over the death of Otto, who "suffered extensive brain damage following interrupted blood flow and a lack of oxygen," according to the coroner who examined his body. 

North Korean officials said Mr. Warmbier’s condition was caused by sleeping pills and botulism, a diagnosis that medical experts doubted. He died six days later at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

M.R.I. scans were done at the medical center after he arrived, which also performed a whole-body CT scan after Mr. Warmbier’s death.

The images clearly showed that his brain had been starved of oxygen and that large tracts of cells had died, Dr. Sammarco said. The medical diagnosis is anoxic-ischemic encephalopathy.

His parents requested that a full autopsy not be performed. On Tuesday, during an appearance on the television show “Fox & Friends,” Fred Warmbier said that his son had been “tortured” and described North Korean officials as “terrorists.” -New York Times

The two Koreas reaffirmed an agreement to denuclearize the peninsula, pledging to declare an official end to the Korean war. FT reports that South Korea's presidential advisor, Moon Chung-in said on Monday that it would be "difficult to justify the presence of 28,500 US troops in South Korea, if a peace treaty was signed," however President Moon Jae-in dismissed Chung-in's views the next day. 

“US troops stationed in South Korea are an issue regarding the alliance between South Korea and the US. It has nothing to do with signing a peace treaty,” his spokesman Kim Eui-keyom quoted the president as saying. (FT)