Americans imprisoned in North Korea freed, heading back to US

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The men were released on Wednesday as USA secretary of state Mike Pompeo left Pyongyang after meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un amid final plans for a Trump-Kim summit.

Kim said he released the three Americans yesterday after an "official suggestion" from Trump.

The report came as USA secretary of state Mike Pompeo returned home from Pyongyang with three U.S. nationals previously imprisoned by North Korea.

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha will travel to the United States this week for talks with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on North Korea and alliance issues, her ministry announced Thursday. They also thanked the president and God for Kim's safe return.

Despite a middle-of-the-night landing (2.42am local time, 7.42am BST), first lady Melania Trump, US vice president Mike Pence and a host of senior administration officials joined Mr Trump to celebrate the occasion.

"I really think he wants to do something", the president said.

Trump and Kim are set to meet in Singapore on June 12.

Speaking with the former detainees by his side at Joint Base Andrews near Washington, Trump called it a "great honor" to welcome the men to the U.S.

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Trump and Kim engaged in a bellicose exchange of rhetoric past year over North Korea's development of nuclear missiles capable of reaching the United States.

A North Korean official informed Pompeo that Kim had granted the three "amnesty", according to a senior US official present for the exchange.

The White House had previously said a release of the prisoners would be a sign of goodwill heading into the upcoming summit between Kim Jong Un and Trump. But it also comes amid renewed uncertainty around how the summit will pan out, after Trump's decision earlier this week to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal.

Trump paid tribute to the family of the late Otto Warmbier, who passed away in 2017 shortly after he was released from North Korea.

The choice of Singapore will put the summit on friendly turf for Trump, as the island nation is a strong U.S. ally and the U.S. Navy frequently visits its port. "It's a very important thing to all of us to be able to get these three great people out", Trump said.

Three Americans held as prisoners in North Korea arrived back in the United States early Thursday morning, less than a day after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo secured their release.

"I think we have a very good chance of doing something very meaningful". Pompeo, however, was actually on his way to North Korea to work on the release of the Americans held captive.