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President Trump greets American prisoners freed by North Korea

See Trump greet Americans freed by N. Korea

What we covered here

  • Prisoners released: Three Americans detained in North Korea are back in the US. They arrived at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland early Thursday morning, where they were greeted by President Trump and spoke briefly to the media.
  • The prisoners: Kim Dong Chul, Kim Hak-song and Kim Sang Duk, also known as Tony Kim, were detained in North Korea for months.
51 Posts

Our live coverage has ended. Scroll through the posts below to read about the return of the three American detainees.

After promising "quite a scene," Trump celebrates return of American detainees

President Trump hinted at putting on a show for the return of the Americans detained in North Korea, and it didn’t disappoint.

“It’s everything that President Trump loves,” CNN’s Will Ripley said before the men’s release. “It’s a photo op. It’s pretty dramatic. These three men who have been in North Korean custody walking out.”

The trio landed at nearly 3 a.m. ET at Joint Base Andrews – the military installation near Washington famous for housing Air Force One – where they were greeted by the President and the First Lady on board the plane.

With an American flag at their back, the group descended stairs to the cheers of military members who were watching.

Hundreds of journalists were credentialed for the event, and Trump held an impromptu news conference with some of them once back on solid ground.

The President was in peak form – he was complimentary of the Americans released and hinted at bigger things to come during his scheduled talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. He used the opportunity to take a dig at The New York Times and joked that the coverage would have some of the highest ratings ever for 3 a.m.

There were a couple awkward or uncomfortable moments, notably when the President congratulated the detainees on “being in this country” and then when relaying a question from the press about how they were treated, after which Trump added “you have to give them the answer.”

Trump on Kim's willingness to negotiate: "I really think he wants to do something"

After addressing the return of the three American detainees, Trump was asked about the prospects of making a deal with Kim Jong Un.

“I really think he wants to do something and bring his country into the real world,” Trump said.

“I think this will be a very big success. It’s never been taken this far, there’s never been a relationship like this.”

“Some great things can happen, and that’s what we hope,” he added.

Trump said the release of the three men was part of working towards the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Trump is now on Marine One leaving Joint Base Andrews. The detainees are expected to be extensively debriefed before they can head home to their families.

"It's like a dream, we are very, very happy"

President Trump and one of the detainees spoke to the media following their arrival at Joint Base Andrews.

“This is a special night for these three really great people,” Trump said before introducing them.

“Frankly, we didn’t think this was going to happen, and it did. It was a very important thing to all of us.”

When asked how he felt, Kim Dong Chul said through a translator: “It’s like a dream and we are very very happy.”

“We were treated in many different ways,” he said, adding he had been forced to do hard labor, but also received medical treatment from the North Koreans when he fell sick.

Trump also said he wanted to pay his “warmest respects” to the family of Otto Warmbier, the American who was released by the North Koreans in a vegetative state, only to die days later.

First sighting of freed Americans

Kim Dong Chul, Kim Hak-song and Kim Sang Duk, also known as Tony Kim, have exited their plane after arriving at Joint Base Andrews outside Washington. The three shook President Trump’s hand and posed for pictures outside their plane.

They were cheered on by members of the military at the base, according to CNN’s Jeff Zeleny on hand.

Trump boards the plane

President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump have boarded the plane to greet the trio of Americans who were freed from North Korean detention. They’re expected to chat and then exit the aircraft together.

Vice President Mike Pence, his wife Karen and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are waiting beside the plane for the group.

Former North Korea detainees touch down outside Washington

Kim Dong Chul, Kim Hak-song and Kim Sang Duk have landed at Joint Base Andrews, just hours after they were was released from North Korean detention.

They spent months behind bars in the isolated nation. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are on hand to greet them.

Trump is expected to meet them on board their plane, and then the group will exit together.

Pompeo's plane lands at Joint Base Andrews

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has landed at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland after a whirlwind trip to North Korea, during which he was able to secure the release of three Americans held in North Korea.

Pompeo quickly left the plane and is now going inside to meet with the President Donald Trump.

Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are already on hand, awaiting the arrival of the three detainees freed from North Korea.

The plane holding the freed Americans – which has more medical equipment on board than Pompeo’s plane – is believed to be running about 15 minutes behind.

Trump is on the scene

Marine One, the US President’s helicopter, has just landed at Joint Base Andrews. President Trump is with his wife and national security adviser John Bolton, among others, on hand to greet the three Americans who were detained in North Korea until just hours ago.

President Donald Trump and the First Lady Melania Trump arrive it Joint Base Andrews.

Trump has left the White House

President Donald Trump is en route on Marine One to Joint Base Andrews, where he’ll greet the Americans who were detained in North Korea.

Traveling with him aboard Marine One is First Lady Melania Trump, the first lady’s chief of staff, Lindsey Reynolds, National Security Adviser John Bolton and Press Secretary Sarah Sanders.

Pence has arrived to welcome detainees home

US Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen have arrived at Joint Base Andrews, where he and President Donald Trump will greet the three Americans who have been released from North Korean custody.

No families at the base

No family members or friends of the three freed Americans will be on hand for their arrival, an official says.

This is largely for protocol reasons in reunifying detainees – they must debrief intelligence officials first. Also, an official said there is no family in the immediate area.

More than 200 credentialed members of the press are on hand to witness the event.

Japanese Prime Minister calls release of Americans a "big achievement"

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo Tuesday.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe congratulated US President Donald Trump on the release of the American detainees in North Korea in a phone call early Thursday morning Tokyo time.

While briefing reporters on the call, Abe said he thought it the three men’s release was a “big achievement” that showed the “positive attitude of North Korea.”

The issue of foreign nationals detained in North Korea is a sensitive subject in Japan. More than a dozen Japanese nationals remain missing after being allegedly abducted by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s.

Previous high profile release of detainees

Of the 14 Americans who have been detained by North Korea since 1996, one of the most high-profile releases was that of journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee.

The pair were employees of former US Vice President Al Gore’s Current TV when they were arrested in March 2009, reporting on the border of North Korea and China. Months later they were sentenced to 12 years hard labor on charges of entering the country illegally to conduct a smear campaign.

Ling and Lee were dramatically freed after former President Bill Clinton flew to Pyongyang, where he secured a pardon for them and brought them back to Los Angeles.

The families of Euna Lee, left, and Laura Ling greet them in California after their release from North Korea.