Wednesday, 19 December, 2018

Leaders of Japan, China, SKorea agree to co-operate on NKorea

Spectators listen to a television news broadcast of a statement by North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un before a public television screen outside the central railway station in Pyongyang Mike Pompeo paves the way in Pyongyang for Trump-Kim summit
Leonard Rios | 10 May, 2018, 00:32

Their latest meeting follows Kim's summit with South Korean president Moon Jae-in on April 27, and came just ahead of the visit of USA secretary of state Mike Pompeo to North Korea to prepare for a potential summit with U.S. president Donald Trump-and possibly secure the release of American detainees.

Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, said in a statement Wednesday that the president "appreciates leader Kim Jong Un's action to release these American citizens, and views this as a positive gesture of goodwill".

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.

The three USA detainees still being held are Korean-American missionary Kim Dong-chul; Kim Sang-duk, also known as Tony Kim, who spent a month teaching at the foreign-funded Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST) before he was arrested in 2017; and Kim Hak-song, who also taught at PUST.

The Trump-Kim meeting is expected later this month or in early June.

Sol, 27, told CNN last month his father would play sports with students and had a good relationship with them, something he observed firsthand during a previous trip he made to Pyongyang as his father's teaching assistant.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Pompeo said he'd be meeting with senior North Korean leaders but didn't know if he'd be meeting with Kim.

This file picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on March 25, 2016, shows Korean-American Kim Dong-chul as he addresses a news conference in Pyongyang. "Everything is picked. And we look forward to having a very great success", he said. Kim Dong Chul is the longest-known USA detainee in North Korea, having spent at least 900 days in custody.

The three Korean-Americans, Kim Dong Chul, Kim Hak Song and Tony Kim, had been detained in the DPRK for one to two years.

Pompeo was on the ground in North Korea for 13 hours.

The release of the detainees came as Pompeo visited North Korea on Wednesday to finalize plans for a historic summit between Trump and Kim, the North's leader. In December, Ri Chol-ho, identified as an official responsible for fundraising for Kim Jong-un's personal account, complained in a government newsletter that too many companies and traders were "adhering to USA imperialist sanction resolutions", damaging Kim's personal net worth and crippling the government's ability to meet the people's minimum needs.

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A North Korean official came to the hotel shortly afterwards to inform Pompeo that Kim had granted them "amnesty", according to a senior US official present for the exchange.

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.

Tony Kim was detained at Pyongyang's airport in April 2017 and accused of unspecified "hostile acts" against the regime. The secretary of state went there to prepare for talks between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

"They want American investment coming to North Korea".

He was previously based at Yanbian University of Science and Technology (YUST) in the northeastern Chinese city of Yanji, near the Chinese border with North Korea.

He was sentenced in April 2016 to 10 years in prison on charges of espionage and subversion.

"Maybe now that we're kind of close to the end. the last few steps for him to be released seems to be going a lot slower than the first year, the whole year", said Sol Kim.

Last Thursday, Trump hinted at the possibility of the release of the hostages, who were detained in North Korea.

China, Japan and South Korea warmed their chilly relations Wednesday, brought together by a common goal: ending North Korea's nuclear program.

The former prisoners had been jailed in North Korea for over a year.

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