Trump Greets Americans Released From North Korea In Early Morning Homecoming

President Donald Trump and the First Lady greeted three American prisoners freed from North Korea early Thursday morning when they arrived at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.

According to ABC, the men are Korean-American missionary Kim Dong-chul, who was detained in 2015 and sentenced in 2016 to 10 years of hard labor; Kim Sang-duk, also known as Tony Kim, who taught at the foreign-funded Pyongyang University of Science and Technology before he was arrested in 2017; and Kim Hak-song, who also taught at the university and was detained last year.

"The fact we were able to get them out so soon was a tribute to a lot of things," said Trump, standing on the tarmac at Andrews, surrounded by journalists and cameras. "I just want to say, this is a special night."

"I'm very honored to have helped these great folks, but the true honor is going to be if we have a victory in getting rid of nuclear weapons," Trump continued. "We have a meeting scheduled in a very short period of time. We have the location set. We'll see if we can do something that people did not think was going to happen for many, many years."

Trump announced on Twitter a day earlier that the three men were on their way home with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. During remarks delivered after the brief tarmac homecoming, Trump praised North Korea for freeing them.

After the men safely deplaned, Trump said that the date and location of the historic US-North Korea summit would be revealed in a few days, saying that a decision has been made.

North Korea

This had been Pompeo's second trip to North Korea in the past month, following a clandestine visit over Easter Weekend where he met with Kim and laid the groundwork for the US-North Korea summit (which will likely be held in Singapore) and also made the case that the release of the prisoners was paramount. Pompeo is the highest-ranking US official to meet with Kim. Pompeo's trip wasn't announced until Trump revealed that his plane was already in the air on Tuesday.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday that the president "appreciates leader Kim Jong Un's action to release these American citizens, and views this as a positive gesture of goodwill."

"The three Americans appear to be in good condition and were all able to walk on the plane without assistance. All Americans look forward to welcoming them home and to seeing them reunited with their loved ones."

Kim Dong Chul, a South Korean-born businessman and pastor, was in custody for more than 900 days following his October 2015 arrest on allegations he was trying to meet with a former North Korean soldier to receive classified information.


He has also been accused by the North of working with South Korea's spy agency, which denied any involvement. Kim had been sentenced to 10 years of hard labor in April 2016.


Trump boarded the plane to shake hands and speak briefly with the men in private. Later, he said that the prisoners' release is a sign that Kim wants to step back "into the real world" - adding that he's hopeful a major breakthrough is coming, per Reuters.

"Frankly we didn’t think it was going to happen and it did," Trump said after thanking Kim for releasing the men.

"We’re starting off on a new footing. This is a wonderful thing that he released the folks early."


"I think we have a very good chance of doing something very meaningful," Trump said.

"My proudest achievement will be - this is part of it - when we denuclearize that entire peninsula."

After meeting with Trump, the three men traveled to Walter Reed for a medical evaluation.