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North Korea Releases 3 Americans As Pompeo's Visit Concludes

10 May, 2018, 00:32 | Author: Ted Wilson
  • Kim Hak Song Kim Dong Chul and Kim Sang Duk

U.S. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said Pompeo met Kim in Pyongyang, and had a productive discussion on a range of issues, including the upcoming Trump-Kim meeting.

Pompeo was dispatched on an unannounced visit - his second in weeks, but first as secretary of state - to lay the groundwork for Donald Trump's unprecedented meeting with Kim Jong-un.

Some experts anxious about the optics of a meeting being held with a leader whose country had imprisoned American citizens on what many believe were bogus charges.

"We will soon be finding out", he said Tuesday when asked at the White House whether the prisoners would be freed.

It didn't say whether his case was related to Tony Kim's.

Kim Sang Dok, also known as Tony Kim, was intercepted in April 2017 at Pyongyang International Airport after being invited to teach accounting at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology. North Korean officials accused the two of anti-state activities and trying to overthrow the government. As with Tony Kim, the university said that Kim's detainment had nothing to do with his employment.

The release of American student Otto Warmbier previous year was secured after Joseph Yun, the State Department's then-special representative for North Korea policy, made a secret trip to Pyongyang.

"The fact that we have the opportunity to change direction here and go in a more peaceful one and having it occur so quickly is good news", said John McHugh, an Atlantic Council board director and former secretary of the U.S. Army. Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, had urged North Korea to release them as a show of their sincerity before talks between Trump and Kim.

Kim Dong Chul, a Korean-American missionary formerly of Fairfax, Virginia, and thought to be about 62, was sentenced in March 2016 to 10 years of hard labor for subversion.

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The South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo notes, however, that North Korean officials have offered statements contradicting this claim.

The country has for years struggled with starvation and food insecurity.

A report from the South Korean newspaper Dong-a Ilbo indicated that the education for the three United States citizens may have included coaching them to say that human-rights abuses had not been committed during their detainment.

Kim also noted improved relations between North and South Korea and pushed back against the idea that USA pressure led to the likely summit. He was educated at a university in California.

US Vice President Mike Pence welcomed North Korea's release of three American detainees but vowed not to ease pressure on the regime until it fully abandons its nuclear weapons program, Yonhap reported.

The announcement follows Pompeo's visit to North Korea.

Since PUST began operating in 2010, he had made at least seven trips, usually for a month at a time, to teach global finance and management to students in Pyongyang, his son Sol Kim said in an interview.

Kim Hak Song, thought to be about 55, also taught at PUST, which was founded by evangelical Christians and opened in 2010. While it's unclear if Kim's faith had anything to do with his detention, other Americans have been severely punished for acts Pyongyang views as proselytizing. He told CNN that he was arrested in October 2015 during a meeting with a North Korean soldier to receive classified data. The conversation was conducted in Korean through an official government translator and in the presence of a North Korean official. He had been living in Rason, North Korea, in a special economic zone where he ran a trading and hotel services company.

"Kim's claims were made in the presence of North Korean officials and CNN can not determine whether they were made under duress", CNN said.

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