The three Americans imprisoned by North Korea

The three Americans imprisoned by North Korea

North Korea, which has been pursuing nuclear and missile programs in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions, figured prominently in talks between the three leaders in Tokyo after South Korean President Moon Jae-in's historic meeting last month with the North's Kim Jong Un.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has arrived in North Korea for meetings ahead of President Donald Trump's planned summit with Kim Jong Un.

President Donald Trump says three Americans who were detained in North Korea have been released.

The White House said all three men were able to walk unassisted onto a US Air Force plane that carried them and the secretary of state out of North Korea. "All Americans look forward to welcoming them home and to seeing them reunited with their loved ones", the statement said.

The three detainees The three Americans - Kim Dong Chul, Kim Hak Song and Kim Sang Duk, who is also known as Tony Kim - have been detained by North Koreans for more than a year.

Trump and Kim plan to meet either this month or next in a location that has yet to be determined.

It was Mr Pompeo's second trip to North Korea - he visited at Easter before he was officially appointed as America's top diplomat.

When he arrived, Pompeo met for a business lunch with his North Korean counterpart, Kim Yong-chol, which the South Korean news service Yonhap identifies as the "head of the North's United Front Department handling inter-Korean relations".

Kim Dong Chul, a South Korea-born USA citizen and former Virginia resident, was sentenced in April 2016 to 10 years in prison with hard labor after being convicted of espionage.

"We've continued to develop both administratively and sort of begin to put some outlines around the substance of the agenda for the summit between the president and Chairman Un", Pompeo said. But he was in a coma at the time he was returned to the US, and he died shortly afterward.

The circumstances of the three men's release was a stark contrast to the fate of American student Otto Warmbier, who died shortly after being returned home in a coma previous year.

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Tony Kim was detained in April 2017 as he attempted to leave North Korea.

"There is reason for some optimism that these talks could be fruitful", U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said of the coming summit.

"Above all, we reached the consensus that complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, a permanent peace settlement and improvement of South-North relations is very important for peace and prosperity of Northeast Asia", Moon said.

Pompeo and officials traveling with him said the Trump administration would not repeat mistakes of the past, which they described as accepting gradual, incremental and long-term disarmament in exchange for immediate benefits.

The two other men were working at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, founded by evangelical Christians from overseas, when they were arrested past year and accused of "hostile acts".

Three Korean-Americans has been imprisoned in North Korea.

The move comes as China, Japan and South Korea have agreed to work together to encourage North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons and on a three-way and regional free trade agreements.

Kim Dong Chul was sentenced to 10 years hard labor in 2016 on charges including espionage.

The release appeared to signal an effort by Kim to set a more positive tone for the summit and followed his recent pledge to suspend missile tests and shut Pyongyang's nuclear bomb test site.

North Korea claimed he had been engaged in "hostile acts" against North Korea, KCNA reported. He was working as an accounting professor at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology when he was detained.

Japan fears it may be left out of North Korean negotiations, with Abe and Kim yet to set up a summit. He said Kim may be looking for ways to reaffirm his nation's status as a nuclear weapons state while diluting support for economic sanctions by China and South Korea.

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