A US Government plane carrying detainees freed by North Korea is on its way to a reception outside Washington after stopping to refuel in Alaska. The Americans touched down at Anchorage International Airport on Wednesday (local time) and are traveling with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, according to President Donald Trump. The detainees had departed North Korea late Tuesday after being in prison for almost a year.
They issued a statement thanking the US Government, Mr Trump and Mr Pompeo for securing their release. “We would like to express our deep appreciation to the United States Government, President Trump, Secretary Pompeo, and the people of the United States for bringing us home,” they said in a statement released by the State Department.
The hostage release is the latest sign of improving relations between longtime adversaries in the build-up to a historic summit between Mr Trump and North Korea’s King Jong-un. Mr Trump promised “quite a scene” at Joint Base Andrews outside Washington for the detainees, who were released as Mr Pompeo visited North Korea to finalise plans for the summit.
North Korea had accused Kim Dong-chul, Kim Hak-song and Tony Kim, all Korean-Americans, of anti-state activities. Their arrests were widely seen as politically motivated and had compounded the dire state of relations over the isolated nation’s nuclear weapons. Until now, the only American released by North Korea during Mr Trump’s presidency has been Otto Warmbier, a 22-year-old university student who returned to the US in a coma last year after 17 months of captivity. He died days later.