US President Donald Trump welcomed the three freed American detainees who reached here on Thursday morning after they were released by North Korea.
Kim Dong Chul, Kim Hak-song and Tony Kim were freed on Wednesday while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was on a visit to the North Korean capital Pyongyang to discuss Trump’s upcoming summit with leader Kim Jong-un, CNN reported.
No family members or friends of the freed Americans were present for their arrival due to protocol reasons, said an official. The men had to first debrief intelligence officials before heading to their homes, the official added.
Speaking on the tarmac at Joint Base Andrews Air Force Base, Kim Dong Chul said his release felt “like a dream”. “We are very, very happy.”
Trump, who was accompanied by his wife Melania, told reporters it was “nice” of the North Korean leader to release the men ahead of their planned summit. According to reports, administration officials had been instructed to move forward with plans to convene the Trump-Kim meeting in Singapore.
Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen Pence were also present to welcome the three men home.
“Frankly we didn’t think this was going to happen. It’s a very important thing to all of us to be able to get these three great people out,” Trump said.
After their meeting with the US President, the men were expected to go to Walter Reed Medical Centre in Maryland for further evaluation and medical treatment, according to White House Press Secretary Lindsay Walters.
They issued a joint statement on Wednesday thanking Trump saying: “We would like to express our deep appreciation to the US government, President Trump, Secretary Pompeo, and the US people for bringing us home.”
Trump has marked the men’s arrival as a major milestone ahead of his upcoming historic summit with Kim. He had previously said the release of the men was part of working towards the denuclearisation of North Korea.