Trump hints at news on North Korean detainees - Taipei Times
Fri, May 04, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Trump hints at news on North Korean detainees

AFP, WASHINGTON

US President Donald Trump on Wednesday hinted that there would be imminent news about three Americans detained in North Korea, after sources said they had been relocated ahead of their possible release.

The development came as Trump prepares for a historic summit meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un following months of tense saber rattling over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

“The past Administration has long been asking for three hostages to be released from a North Korean Labor camp, but to no avail. Stay tuned!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

Two of the three hostages were detained last year after Trump had assumed office.

The US has been demanding that North Korea free Kim Hak-song, Kim Sang-duk and Kim Dong-chul, and reports have said the two sides were close to reaching a deal on their release.

“They are staying in a hotel on the outskirts of Pyongyang,” said Choi Sung-ryong, a South Korean activist with contacts in North Korea, adding that the three were being kept separately, but “going on tours, receiving medical treatment and eating good food.”

Diplomatic sources in Pyongyang have said there were rumors that the three had been relocated, but there had been no confirmation of their exact whereabouts.

A US Department of State official could not confirm the reports, but added: “We are working to see US citizens who are detained in North Korea come home as soon as possible.”

The matter was discussed when US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to Pyongyang last month, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Speaking to Fox News on Sunday, Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, said releasing the hostages would be “an opportunity” for North Korea to “demonstrate their authenticity.”

Kim Dong-chul, a South Korea-born American pastor, has been detained since 2015 when he was arrested for spying. He was sentenced to 10 years’ hard labor in 2016.

Kim Hak-song and Kim Sang-duk — or Tony Kim — were both working at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, founded by evangelical Christians from overseas, when they were detained last year on suspicion of “hostile acts.”

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