North Korean Prisoners Released; Is This a Hopeful Sign?

Some folks might have wondered why Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was not on hand for Donald Trump’s recent blockbuster announcement. That’s when the president stated that he was pulling the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear weapons deal.

As it turned out, Pompeo was involved in a very important mission at the time. He was attempting to secure the release of three Americans being held prisoner in North Korea.

Fortunately, he succeeded. They are Kim Dong Chul, Kim Hak-song and Kim Sang Duk. And they are all reportedly in good health.

The latter two had been accused of committing “hostile acts” while working at a North Korean university. The first was accused of being a South Korean spy.

U.S.-North Korea Summit on Horizon

A statement from the three read: “We would like to express our deep appreciation to the United States government, President Trump, Secretary Pompeo and the people of the United States for bringing us home.”

Pompeo said he was “thrilled to have them back.” And while he was in North Korea, he put the wheels in motion for a summit where Trump and Kim Jong-un will meet. We’re still waiting to hear details about the summit, including when and where it will be held. But we know it will be the first-ever meeting between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader.

And in the meantime, we have a pretty good idea about what both sides will be hoping to gain from this pow-wow.

Charges: Espionage and Hostile Acts

Trump said he “appreciates Kim Jong-un’s action to release these three American citizens and views this as a gesture of goodwill.”

He continued: “All Americans look forward to welcoming them home and to seeing them reunited with their loved ones.”

Kim Dong Chul had been in custody since 2015. He was convicted of espionage the following year and sentenced to 10 years of hard labor.

Kim Hak-song and Kim Sang Duk were arrested for their “hostile acts” in April and May 2017, respectively. They had been working at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology. It’s the only privately-run university in the North Korean capital.

Trio Avoids Warmbier Fate

Fortunately, all three of the prisoners are said to be in good health.

That’s a far cry from what was experienced by a previous American prisoner, Otto Warmbier who was released by North Korea last year and died shortly after. His parents said he had been tortured. A coroner concluded that he had extensive brain damage.

Warmbier had been convicted of trying to steal a propaganda poster while on a trip to North Korea in 2016.

Summit Goals Are Pretty Clear

Trump wants North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to end his nuclear ambitions. That will be Trump’s focus during the summit.

Kim Jong-un wants to end the sanctions that are crippling his country’s economy. And he wants to normalize relations between his country, the U.S. and South Korea.

Is there any chance the wishes of Trump, age 71, and Kim Jong-un, age 34, will both be fulfilled? Considering how much animosity has existed between the two men, it seems like that would be a long shot.

But perhaps enough progress can be made to stop the hostile threats that have been issued. And that have made a lot of people nervous.

What Do You Predict?

We don’t know what will come out of the summit. North Korea may decide to cooperate. Or Kim Jong-un may leave in a huff and speed up his nuclear program.

It’s all up in the air right now.

What do you think? Do you believe the summit will change anything? Or will it be business as usual after Kim Jong-un goes home?

Please leave a comment below and let us know your thoughts. We’d love to hear from you about this topic.

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