Kim Jong Un has released three prisoners ahead of President Donald Trump’s proposed visit to North Korea, The Washington Post reports. According to the Post, the three men are citizens of the United States of Korean descent. Trump made the announcement via Twitter, describing the news as “very exciting.”
“I am pleased to inform you that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in the air and on his way back from North Korea with the 3 wonderful gentlemen that everyone is looking so forward to meeting,” the President wrote. “They seem to be in good health.”
Trump also promised that he would be there to greet the released prisoners when they land at Joint Base Andrews outside Washington. D.C. In his tweet, Trump also seemed to indicate that the date and time of his meeting with Kim Jong Un had been scheduled. But he did not disclose any additional details about it.
The former prisoners had been jailed in North Korea for over a year. Secretary of State Pompeo had been in Pyongyang for a week to set up the Jong Un and Trump meeting and to negotiate the release. The end of their imprisonment removes a “bitter and emotional” hurdle before the summit, The New York Times reports. The Times is also calling their release one of the most “tangible” signs that North Korea is committed to improving relations with The United States, and cited an unnamed senior US official who confirmed that it was one of the conditions North Korea had to agree to so that the Trump meeting could be discussed.
According to The New York Times, South Korea has also welcomed the release of the US prisoners. Yoon Young-Chan, a spokesperson for South Korean President deemed it, “very positive for a successful North Korean-United States Summit.”
These current diplomatic maneuvers between Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump stand in stark contrast to the war of words that the two leaders have previously engaged. Each side has threatened nuclear war. In March, Trump responded to South Korea’s peace talks with Kim Jong Un with a tweet stating that the US was prepared to “go hard in either direction,” The Daily Express reported at the time. At The United Nations last year, Trump called Jong Un “little rocket man,” and said that the United States had its finger on a nuclear button that was larger than the one in Pyongyang.
In a response, Kim Jong Un called Trump a “dotard,” The New York Times reported.
But it looks like tempers have cooled in the advent of a potential meeting with the previously embattled heads of state. Only time will tell as to whether it will lead to a meaningful thawing of US-North Korea relations.