When three Americans newly freed from detention in North Korea arrived at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland early Thursday, President Donald Trump was there to greet them.
The president was joined by first lady Melania Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
A motorcade was waiting to take the three Korean-American detainees — Kim Dong Chul, Kim Hak Song and Tony Kim — to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for physical examinations.
The White House said earlier they would be evaluated and receive medical treatment at the Washington-area facility. Their families were not on hand for the ceremony.
When the plane arrived from Alaska, where it stopped Wednesday after leaving North Korea, Trump and the first lady climbed aboard to greet the men and stayed there for several minutes.
After the president emerged with the three Americans, he addressed the media, saying, “I really think he
Trump publicly thanked North Korean ruler for releasing the prisoners, and regarded it as a sign of easing tensions as the two leaders hope to strike a deal toward peace on the Korean Peninsula in the forthcoming summit.
North Korea’s official news agency, KCNA, said Kim’s move to grant the three Americans amnesty came at the “official suggestion” of the U.S. president.
The former “hostages,” as Trump has called them, left North Korea early Wednesday, accompanied by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
“This is a special night for these three really great people,” Trump told reporters as he stood on the tarmac. On the U.S. relationship with North Korea, Trump said, “We’re starting off on a new footing.”
The freed prisoners appeared tired but in excellent spirits, flashing peace signs as they emerged from the aircraft. They were joined by a translator who said “it’s like a dream” and that the men were “very, very happy” to be freed.
North Korea had accused the detainees of anti-state activities. Their arrests were widely seen as politically motivated and compounded the dire state of U.S.-North Korea relations over the isolated nation’s nuclear weapons.
The three had been held for periods ranging between one and two years. They were the latest in a series of Americans who have been detained in North Korea in recent years for seemingly minor offenses.
“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 three said in an earlier statement released by the State Department.
The three Americans and Pompeo flew on separate government planes because they received checkups during the flight from Japan and the larger plane was better equipped to accommodate the medical equipment.
Trump called it a “great honor” to welcome home the three North Korean detainees, but said “the true honor is going to be if we have a victory in getting rid of nuclear weapons.”
Although few details have been revealed regarding the high-stakes foreign policy effort between Trump and Kim, Singapore has emerged as the likely host of the summit that will take place later this month or early June as the president sets his sights on denuclearizing the Korean peninsula.
Trump made a point of publicly thanking North Korea’s leader for the prisoners’ release — “We want to thank Kim Jong Un” — and hailed it as a sign of cooling tensions and growing opportunity on the Korean peninsula. Kim decided to grant amnesty to the three Americans at the “official suggestion” of the U.S. president, said North Korea’s official news agency, KCNA.
Reported by: Associated Press/Fox News