In another significant victory for the Trump administration, North Korea has released three United States citizens from a labor camp within the rogue regime.
In a news conference last week, President Donald Trump said they were “working very hard” to get the Americans released, CBS News reported.
“We are negotiating now. We are doing our very best,” Trump told reporters. “I think there’s a good chance of doing it. We’re having very good dialogue. We will keep you informed. But we are in there and we are working very hard on that.”
National Security Advisor John Bolton told Fox News on Sunday that the release of the detainees would be a chance for North Korea “to demonstrate their authenticity” ahead of a planned summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Trump later this month.
Newly confirmed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also reportedly brought up the American detainees to Kim during a secret visit to North Korea last month while still in his role as CIA director, according to The New York Times.
“Kim Dong-cheol, a South Korean-born American pastor, was arrested by North Korea… on charges of spying and sentenced in 2016 to 10 years of hard labour,” the Financial Times reported.
“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.'”
The three Korean-Americans prisoners were reportedly sent to North Korea’s capital of Pyongyang for medical treatment after being released from the labor camp.
According to the Financial Times, North Korea has kept a close eye on the detainees, wanting to ensure that there wasn’t a repeat of the Otto Warmbier case, an American university student who died last year only six days after being released from North Korea and sent back to the U.S.
“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,” Otto’s father said last month.
The Washington Times noted that although the Americans are out of “the brutal labor camp, the men remain in the grasp of Mr. Kim’s regime.”
However, Choi Sung-ryong, a vocal activist for South Korean detainees held in North Korea, said he is hopeful Trump can acquire complete freedom for the Americans.
“We heard it through our sources in North Korea late last month,” he said.
“We believe that Mr. Trump can take them back on the day of the U.S.-North Korea summit, or he can send an envoy to take them back to the U.S. before the summit.”
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