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North Korea Releases 3 American Prisoners

North Korea Releases 3 American Prisoners

North Korea released three American prisoners and handed them over to U.S. 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.

South Korea is also pushing for the release of six of its nationals held by Pyongyang including three defectors originally from North Korea, and three Christian missionaries - the first of whom was detained in 2013.

North Korea remains technically at war after the 1950-53 Korean War ended with a ceasefire rather than an armistice, and Pyongyang has long insisted that it needs nuclear weapons to defend itself from a possible United States invasion.

In a interview with CNN in January 2016, Kim said he was a naturalised American who had lived in Fairfax, Virginia.

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When asked if he thinks he deserves the Nobel Peace Prize for his negotiations with North Korea, Trump responded with uncharacteristic modesty.

He said it would help towards improving the situation on the Korean peninsula and the "building of a good future", in comments published on North Korea's official KCNA news agency.

It marks the second meeting between the two leaders in recent weeks, following Kim's first official visit to Beijing in March, his first since taking power in 2011. Numerous foreigners detained by North Korea in the past have said the government forced them into making confessions to false or trumped-up charges.

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Relatively little is known about the men, all Korean-Americans, and the circumstances in which they ended up in North Korean custody.

Tony Kim's son Sol Kim, a graduate student in California, is the only relative of the detainees to have appealed in public for their freedom.

Kim Hak-song, who volunteered at the college's agricultural research farm, was arrested in May 2017.

Trump has credited his "maximum pressure" campaign for drawing North Korea to the table and has vowed to keep sanctions in place until Pyongyang takes concrete steps to denuclearize.

He did not mention that two of the Americans had been detained after he became President. That left the 40 or so PUST faculty and lecturers who are US citizens scrambling to leave the country or unable to return to Pyongyang after the summer break.

Two months later, North Korea announced it would send athletes to the Winter Olympics in neighbouring South Korea and so began the charm offensive of 2018. "Mostly, we thank God for Tony's safe return", the statement said.

"Though we're not quite back home yet, I welcomed them back", Pompeo told Associated Press. They were seated with medical personnel in a curtained off area of the aircraft.

The men are flying to Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, where Mr Trump will welcome them early on Thursday.