President Trump welcomed home three Americans freed by North Korea early Thursday in a flag-waving ceremony before dawn, calling their release a hopeful sign that North Korea will denuclearize.
“This is a special night for these three really great people,” Mr. Trump told reporters on the tarmac at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland shortly after 3 a.m. with the former detainees. “The true honor is going to be if we have a victory in getting rid of nuclear weapons.”
The Washington Times reports,
As he stood with the three men, Mr. Trump thanked North Korea’s Kim Jong-un for releasing the Americans, and said he believes Mr. Kim wants to reach an agreement on denuclearizing the Korean peninsula.
“We’re starting off on a new footing,” the president said. “I think he did this because I really think he wants to do something and bring that country into the real world. I really believe that.”
The president and Mr. Kim plan to meet soon at a historic summit to discuss North Korea giving up its nuclear weapons program. The date and location of the meeting will be announced within days, after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo nailed down more details in meetings in North Korea this week.
“Hopefully, everything is going to work out at the highest level,” Mr. Trump said. “We want to thank Kim Jong-un who really was excellent to these three incredible people.”
Asked by a reporter how it feels to be home, one of the men said through a translator, “It’s like a dream. We are very, very happy.”
When a reporter asked Mr. Trump whether the return of the three men is his proudest achievement, the president replied, “My proudest achievement will be — this is a part of it, but it will be when we denuclearize that entire peninsula. This is what people have been waiting for for a long time. Nobody thought we could be on this track in terms of the speed.”
First lady Melania Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and other senior administration officials joined Mr. Trump to celebrate the return of the Americans at the military base near Washington. The men, Kim Dong-chul, Kim Hak-song and Tony Kim, were released Wednesday amid a warming of relations between the longtime adversaries.
The president and first lady boarded the medical plane on which the men traveled to take a private moment with them, then appeared at the top of the airplane stairway with the three and applauded as the men held up their arms in what appeared to be gestures of triumph.
The freed prisoners appeared tired but in excellent spirits, flashing peace signs as they emerged from the aircraft. As the men entered into view, U.S. service members on the tarmac burst into applause and cheers.
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