Americans Freed By North Korea Ahead Of Trump-Kim Summit

Plus, the meeting time and place between Trump and Kim has been set.

What you need to know
  • Mike Pompeo visits North Korea ahead of summit with Trump
  • Three American prisoners are freed from the country
  • Trump tweets that a time and date has been set for his meeting with Kim Jong-Un

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- North Korea released three American prisoners and handed them over to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday, clearing a major obstacle to an unprecedented summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.

The men, who were freed after Pompeo met Kim, were on the way home from Pyongyang on the chief US diplomat’s plane. The president planned to greet them when they land at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington about 2am Thursday morning.

The release, which was praised by the White House as a “gesture of goodwill" to signal an effort by Kim to set a more favourable tone for the summit and followed his recent pledge to suspend missile tests and shut a North Korean nuclear bomb test site.

Mike Pompeo arrives in North Korea. Image : Getty Images.

While Kim is giving up the last of his American detainees, whom North Korea has often used as bargaining chips with the United States, a release could also be aimed at pressuring Trump to make concessions of his own as he tries to get Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear arsenal, something it has not signaled a willingness to do.

The release gave Trump a chance to tout a diplomatic achievement just a day after his decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal drew heavy criticism from European allies and others.

“I am pleased to inform you that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in the air and on his way back from North Korea with the 3 wonderful gentlemen that everyone is looking so forward to meeting. They seem to be in good health,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

Reporting by Makini Brice, Susan Heavey, Matt Spetalnick, David Brunnstrom, Lesley Wroughton, James Oliphant, Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali; Additional reporting by Ju-min Park, Josh Smith and Christine Kim in Seoul; Writing by Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Bill Trott and Alistair Bell.