President Trump welcomes 3 Americans freed by North Korea

Under an American flag and dark night sky, US President Donald Trump personally welcomed home three American detainee...

Posted: May 10, 2018 12:57 PM
Updated: May 10, 2018 12:57 PM

Under an American flag and dark night sky, US President Donald Trump personally welcomed home three American detainees Thursday morning after they were released from North Korea.

The Americans -- Kim Dong Chul, Kim Hak-song and Kim Sang Duk, also known as Tony Kim -- were freed Wednesday while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was on a visit to the North Korean capital of Pyongyang to discuss President Trump's upcoming summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

No family members or friends of the three freed Americans were on hand for their arrival in the early hours of Thursday due to protocol reasons, an official told CNN, adding the men had to first debrief intelligence officials before heading to their homes.

Speaking to the media on the tarmac at Joint Base Andrews Air Force Base, Kim Dong Chul said his release felt "like a dream."

"We are very, very happy," said Kim.

RELATED: 13 hours in North Korea: How US prisoners were released

Trump: 'Nice' of Kim Jong Un to release men

President Trump, who was accompanied by his wife Melania, told waiting reporters it was "nice" of the North Korean leader to release the three men ahead of their planned summit.

"Frankly we didn't think this was going to happen ... it's a very important thing to all of us to be able to get these three great people out," he said.

Trump also said he wanted to pay his "warmest respects" to the family of Otto Warmbier, the American who was released by the North Koreans in a vegetative state, only to die days later.

After their meeting with Trump, the three men were expected to go to the Walter Reed Medical Center in Maryland for further evaluation and medical treatment, according to White House Press Secretary Lindsay Walters.

After addressing the return of the three American detainees, Trump was asked about the prospects of making a deal with the North Korean leader.

"I really think he wants to do something and bring his country into the real world," Trump said.

"I think this will be a very big success. It's never been taken this far, there's never been a relationship like this."

Trump has previously said the release of the three men was part of working towards the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

"Some great things can happen, and that's what we hope," he added.

Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen Pence were also on hand to welcome the three men home.

Joking with reporters, Trump said the three men's arrivals had probably broken "the all time in history television rating for three in the morning."

The US President had earlier said on his Twitter it would be "quite a scene" when the detainees arrived in Washington.

Detainees still in North Korean custody

Rumors had swirled for days around the possibility North Korea might release the three Americans ahead of the summit, especially once Pompeo's visit to Pyongyang was revealed.

Trump had demurred on how likely their return was, telling reporters on Tuesday "we'll all soon be finding out." "It would be a great thing if they are," he added.

The three former detainees issued a joint statement on Wednesday thanking Trump for 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," the trio said.

While both South Korea and Japan welcomed the news of the Americans' release, the two countries are still waiting for word on their own citizens held or abducted by North Korea.

In a statement Wednesday, South Korean government spokesman Yoon Young-chan called again for Kim Jong Un to release the six South Koreans still held by the North.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has repeatedly pushed for Trump to raise the issue of repeated abductions of Japanese citizens by North Korea in his upcoming meeting with Kim Jong Un. More than a dozen abductees still remain missing, according to the Japanese government.

Meeting planned for Singapore

CNN reported Wednesday that administration officials have been instructed to move forward with plans to convene that meeting in Singapore, according to two people familiar with the plans.

Trump said on Wednesday he would announce the location and the timing of the summit in three days time, after repeatedly teasing the meeting date had been set. The two leaders are expected to meet sometime in June.

It will be the first meeting ever between a sitting US President and a North Korean leader, with both men meeting to discuss denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Other locations had been under discussion, including Mongolia and the Korean demilitarized zone (DMZ), but experts said Singapore's neutral but opulent setting was likely to work in its favor.

It comes less than two months after a historic summit between Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in on April 27 in the DMZ, where Kim became the first North Korean leader to set foot in the South since 1953.

The White House Wednesday said they viewed the action to release the Americans as a "gesture of good will."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 250869

Reported Deaths: 5481
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17010171
Hinds16091318
Harrison13250193
Rankin10629208
Jackson10216182
Lee8759141
Madison8186161
Jones6222109
Forrest5917118
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Lamar480465
Washington4770123
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Monroe3521104
Warren344597
Union341458
Marshall339165
Neshoba3357152
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Lincoln295685
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Tate269560
Alcorn262653
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Hancock260458
Pike259977
Scott244745
Prentiss244052
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Tippah239749
Copiah239149
Simpson233967
Leake229564
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Newton189142
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Tishomingo182159
Holmes168167
Jasper167735
Clay158233
Stone141520
Tallahatchie139234
Clarke137460
Calhoun135121
Smith119423
Yalobusha116134
Walthall111736
Noxubee110222
Greene109129
Montgomery109134
Carroll104121
Lawrence102117
Perry100531
Amite96825
Webster91924
Tunica86021
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Jefferson Davis84025
Humphreys82624
Benton81023
Kemper76620
Quitman6838
Franklin65815
Choctaw60013
Wilkinson58325
Jefferson53419
Sharkey42417
Issaquena1596
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 420681

Reported Deaths: 6119
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson61755921
Mobile30058548
Madison26852186
Tuscaloosa20652266
Montgomery18876305
Shelby18421114
Baldwin16176182
Lee12393101
Morgan12175113
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Marshall10158107
Houston8556148
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St. Clair7502120
Talladega6145108
Walker5880174
Jackson578841
Colbert529873
Blount529283
Autauga515455
Coffee438156
Dale394381
Franklin365248
Chilton335365
Covington326968
Russell326810
Escambia316142
Dallas302896
Chambers281869
Clarke279633
Tallapoosa2607107
Pike247629
Marion244650
Lawrence242547
Winston225535
Bibb214447
Geneva199535
Marengo197829
Pickens196231
Hale175442
Barbour172336
Butler168458
Fayette167126
Cherokee160030
Henry152721
Monroe145017
Randolph138835
Washington137026
Clay126145
Crenshaw118644
Lamar117519
Cleburne117223
Macon114335
Lowndes109535
Wilcox102621
Bullock98728
Perry96919
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