The Slatest

North Korea Releases Three American Prisoners Ahead of Talks With the U.S.

Television coverage of Mike Pompeo and Kim Jong-un
South Koreans watch news coverage of the meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

Three American prisoners have been released from North Korea, President Donald Trump announced in a tweet Wednesday morning.

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The three prisoners, American citizens of Korean ancestry, were believed to be the only American prisoners in North Korea. According to the New York Times, their release was a condition for talks between Trump and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un.

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A spokesman for South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in said the release was “very positive for a successful North Korean-United States summit,” according to the Times.

According to Trump’s tweets, the prisoners were freed after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited North Korea to discuss the expected meeting between the two world leaders.

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The action represents a goodwill gesture from a nation known for its antagonism, unpredictability, and human rights violations. It follows an April announcement from Kim that North Korea would halt all nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests.

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Kim Dong-chul, Tony Kim, and Kim Hak-song were seized and held on charges of espionage and “hostile acts.” Trump previously asserted incorrectly that the Obama administration failed to secure their release—two of the three hostages were detained after Trump took office.

According to the Washington Post, none of the three men had been seen since June, when a State Department official was allowed to briefly see them while retrieving Otto Warmbier, a 22-year-old University of Virginia student who was arrested in North Korea for allegedly trying to steal a propaganda poster. Warmbier was released after falling into a coma, and he died soon after. His parents have sued North Korea over his death, claiming their son was “brutally tortured and murdered.”

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