SEOUL, May 9 (Yonhap) — North Korea is expected to release three U.S. citizens held in the communist state on Wednesday, an official from Seoul’s presidential office Cheong Wa Dae said, in an apparent goodwill gesture ahead of a historic meeting between its leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump.

The official said U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was expected to return with the exact time of the Trump-Kim summit, along with the three U.S. captives in North Korea. “We expect him to bring the date, time and the captives,” the official said, while speaking on condition of anonymity.  (more)

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Kim Dong Chul, Kim Sang Duk, Kim Hak Soon are the names of the three hostages being released.  Two of the captives, Hak-Soon and Sang Duk, belong to the Pyongyang Univ of Science & Technology and were taken in in Apr & May 2017: they’ve been held for a year. The third, Kim Dong Chul, is an ordained minister taken in 2015 when he was commuting to Rason from China and and has been serving a 10-year sentence on espionage charges.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo specifically requested their release while visiting Pyongyang on Easter weekend. The three are US citizens with Korean heritage.  National Security Adviser John Bolton said on Fox News Sunday that North Korea could show its sincerity by releasing US hostages prior to the summit.

In March of this year Sweden was initially playing a large role and helping negotiate the terms of the North-South Korea summit as well as the release of three Americans held captive in North Korea.

“We believe that Mr. Trump can take them back on the day of the U.S.-North Korea summit, or he can send an envoy to take them back to the U.S. before the summit,” said Choi Sung-ryong, an activist pursuing release of North Korea’s political prisoners.

 

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