Detainees return home to United States from North Korea - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Detainees return home to United States from North Korea

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WASHINGTON (WKOW) -- The three Korean-Americans detained in North Korea are back on U.S. soil.  

Kim Dong Chul, Tony Kim and Kim Hak-Song were greeted by President Donald Trump, First Lady Melania Trump and Vice President Mike Pence at Andrews Air Force Base early Thursday.  The three had been accused of espionage against the North Korean regime.  

Kim Dong Chul had been imprisoned since 2015, while Tony Kim and Kim Hak-Song had been there since last year.  

The president said it was kind of Kim Jong Un to let the three Americans go before the two leaders met.  

"It was, sort of, understood that we'd be able to get these three terrific people during the meeting and be able to bring them home after the meeting.  And, he was nice in letting them go before the meeting.  Frankly, we didn't think this was going to happen," said President Trump.  "This is what people have been waiting for, for a long time.  Nobody thought we could be on this track, in terms of speed, so I'm very honored to have helped the three folks."

The three were seemingly in good health.  They'll be evaluated and treated at Walter Reed Medical Center.  They released a statement saying, "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."

Their release came after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to work out the details of his upcoming meeting with President Donald Trump.  The time and place have reportedly been set.  A possible location is said to be Singapore.  The president said his top priority for that meeting is denuclearization.  "My proudest achievement will be.... when we denuclearize that entire peninsula," he said.  

Following the release, Vice President Pence touted President Trump's leadership in an interview with ABC News and called witnessing their arrival to the U.S. "one of the greatest joys of my life."  He said, "I think it is a direct result of President Trump's leadership on the world stage... Sending these three Americans home before any concessions have been offered I think is a testament to the president's policy of peace through strength -- strong, clear, American leadership with our allies at the table has brought us this far, and we hope it opens the way to a lasting peace."  

Pence added that there is reason to be optimistic in dealings with North Korea, "We’re seeing hopeful signs from Kim Jong Un that he is prepared to embrace complete denuclearization -- that's his words."

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