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They were released ahead of Trump's summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, which is expected to take place in mid- to -late June, possibly in Singapore.

"The highly anticipated meeting between Kim Jong Un and myself will take place in Singapore on June 12th", Trump tweeted.

Kim said the summit would be an "excellent first step toward promotion of the positive situation development in the Korean peninsula and building of a good future", KCNA said in a report about Pompeo's visit.

Two of three Americans who arrived in the United States early Thursday morning after being freed from North Korea, where they had been imprisoned, have strong connections to the Southern California area.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to Pyongyang twice to meet with Kim in recent months, in a precursor to the Trump-Kim meeting.

They finally left custody at 7:45 p.m., and by 8:42 p.m. they were flying home. Pompeo returned overnight with three captive Americans during his most recent trip.

"We are very grateful for the release of our husband and father, Tony Kim, and the other two American detainees", according to the family.

MARTIN: We should mention you were dropped from consideration to be the USA ambassador to South Korea because of your opposition to this idea of a pre-emptive USA strike in North Korea.

"It was a very important part of it to get the release of those Americans".

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North Korean state media said they were arrested for subversion or "hostile acts" against Pyongyang.

South Korea government said it had high hopes for the summit.

Trump's aim is the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization (CVID) of North Korea. In 2016, he was convicted of espionage and sentenced to 10 years of hard labor.

Otto Warmbier, a 22-year-old American student who was detained in North Korea for 17 months, died in June 2017 after he was released by Kim's regime. The family issued a statement Wednesday hailing their release. On the U.S. relationship with North Korea, Trump declared, "We're starting off on a new footing".

Washington and Pyongyang have remained in a state of war since the fighting in the 1950-53 Korean War ended and do not have formal diplomatic ties, complicating efforts to handle the cases of American detainees.

The university is the only privately funded college in North Korea and was founded in 2010 with donations from Christian groups.

Mintaro Oba, a former state department official who worked on Korean negotiations, told the Guardian: "Singapore wasn't my first choice for the North Korea summit location". Some in Washington had expressed disappointment that Pompeo's first trip, made in secret when he was still Central Intelligence Agency director, did not win the freedom of the three captives. "I wouldn't say an inability to reach agreement on the first meeting translates into failure".

As the men entered into view, USA service members on the tarmac burst into applause and cheers. They were seated with medical personnel in a curtained off area of the aircraft.

In an interview with "Good Morning America" on Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence said it was "heartbreaking" for him to think about how the detainees were treated in North Korea.


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