The pending U.S. -North Korea summit has sparked a flurry of diplomacy, with Japan, South Korea and China holding a high-level meeting on Wednesday.
Some experts say one reason why North Korea apparently wants to have a Kim-Trump summit in Pyongyang, the North's capital, is that Kim's plane might not be able to fly to faraway places like Switzerland, Sweden or Washington. "[They] were happy to be with us on this plane, to be sure". I think it's nearly inconceivable that the USA would succeed in some tactic in splitting the DPRK from China.
"I think that Chairman Kim is trying to set good conditions for the summit". He said there were "no glitches" during his visit.
At the time, U.S. officials insisted that their release "must not be related or used to loosen the main issue of denuclearization", the source said, but that message seems to have changed in recent days, according to a source at the National Security Council, who said the development would be viewed as a goodwill gesture ahead of the planned summit with Kim Jong Un.
Pompeo said Wednesday he was "thrilled" the men were now out.
The president added that the trio appeared to be in good health.
Trump has said the goal is for North Korea to agree to denuclearize. He was so eager to associate himself with the freed prisoners that he chose to travel to Joint Base Andrews, outside Washington, in the middle of the night to welcome them back to the United States - something other presidents have not typically done in similar circumstances.
"Very exciting!" the president said.
The longest-held prisoner was Kim Dong-chul, a 64-year-old formerly of Fairfax, Va., who was arrested in October 2015. The envoy had repatriated college student Otto Warmbier, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison with hard labor for stealing a propaganda poster.
American detainees in North Korea have been an especially delicate issue. His parents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier, recently filed a lawsuit accusing North Korea of kidnapping and fatally torturing their son.
Tony Kim, who also uses the name Kim Sang-duk, was detained in April 2017 at the Pyongyang airport.
A Trump-Kim meeting seemed a remote possibility just a few months ago when the two leaders were trading threats and insults over North Korea's development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile tests.
Singapore has reportedly been chosen to host the much-anticipated meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un in the coming weeks. "Kim Jong-un reached a satisfactory consensus on the issues discussed with the U.S. state secretary", Yonhap News Agency quoted KCNA as saying.
"We can build on this progress and pursue a verifiable agreement to dismantle North Korea's nuclear arms", McConnell said. He called the release of the captives "a proud and memorable moment for America".
In an interview prior to the three prisoners' release, the former official said some negotiations are handled by the US State Department via the "New York channel" of contacts with North Korean diplomats at the United Nations, while others are handled via the US intelligence community.