Three Americans were headed home Wednesday after each spending more than a year detained by officials in North Korea, President Donald Trump confirmed in a tweet.
“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,” Trump wrote Wednesday morning. “They seem to be in good health.”
Trump said Pompeo and the Americans, previously identified as Kim Hak-song, Tony Kim and Kim Dong-chul, will land at Andrews Air Force Base around 2 a.m. Thursday.
"I will be there to greet them," Trump wrote. "Very exciting!"
The men appeared to be in good condition Wednesday and did not need help to get onto a plane bound for the U.S., White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday in a statement.
“President Trump appreciates leaders Kim Jong Un's action to release these American citizens, and views this as a positive gesture of goodwill,” she said. “All Americans look forward to welcoming them home and to seeing them reunited with their loved ones.”
The president hinted last week that work was being done to secure the Americans’ release and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani told Fox News the release was imminent. However, White House officials declined to elaborate on or confirm the statements.
“This is a proud and memorable moment for America,” Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday.
CNN reported that Kim Dong-chul was detained in 2015 in North Korea on suspicion of spying for South Korea. Tony Kim was detained in April 2017 and Kim Hak-song was detained in May 2017, CNN reported. Both men, who worked at the privately run Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, were accused of committing "hostile acts" against Kim Jong Un's regime.
In a statement obtained by The Wall Street Journal, the family of Tony Kim said they were “very grateful for the release of our husband and father, Tony Kim, and the other two American detainees.”
“We want to thank all of those who have worked toward and contributed to his return home,” the statement said. We also want to thank the President for engaging directly with North Korea. Mostly, we want to thank God for Tony's safe return. We appreciate all of the support and prayers of friends and even strangers during this challenging year. You are dear to our hearts. We ask that you continue to pray for the people of North Korea and for the release of all who are still being held.”
Pompeo met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last month before he was sworn in on April 26 to serve as secretary of state, Trump confirmed last month on Twitter. Pompeo's meeting was the first high-level meeting with Pyongyang since 2000 when then-Secretary of State Madeline Albright met with Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il, The Washington Post reported.
Check back for updates to this developing story.