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Three Americans held captive in North Korea are reportedly undergoing ‘re-education’ ahead of their possible release back to the United States.
Korean-Americans Kim Sang-duk, Kim Dong-chul and Kim Hak-song have been subjected to hard labour after being detained for "conspiracy to overthrow the state."
The three men have now reportedly been released from jail and are being given ‘ideological education such as receiving health treatment’ after they "deteriorated" in prison.
Talks of their release come amid increased diplomatic activity ahead of Pyongyang’s planned summits with Washington and Seoul in May.
Choi Sung-ryong, a representative of the three prisoners, told Naver the men had been released from a labour camp in early April and were now on a "course" at a hotel outside the capital.
Last week dictator Kim Jong-un pledged to shut down all nuclear test sites ‘within weeks’ in full view of the outside world.
The move came as Jong-un agreed to sign a peace treaty with South Korean President Moon Jae-in last week to formally end the Korean War later this year – and a meeting with Donald Trump is being planned.
A spokesman in Seoul said international experts and journalists from South Korea and the US would be allowed in to watch the shutdown of the Punggye-ri site at a summit in May.
National Security Advisor of the United States John Bolton told Fox News yesterday: "If North Korea releases the detained Americans before the North-US summit, it will be an opportunity to demonstrate their authenticity."
Dong-chul, a South Korea-born American pastor, has been detained by the North since 2015 when he was arrested for spying.
He was sentenced to 10 years hard labour in 2016.
Kim Hak-song and Kim Sang-duk 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".
It’s believed that North Korea is giving the men healthcare as it did not want to repeat what happened with American university student Otto Warmbier following his release.
Warmbier, from Wyoming, Ohio, died aged 22 after being imprisoned in North Korea from January 2016 until he was returned to the United States in June 2017 in a coma.
He died six days later, and an Ohio coroner said the cause was lack of oxygen and blood to the brain.
North Korea blamed botulism and ingestion of a sleeping pill and dismissed torture claims.
The coroner who examined Warmbier said he found no sign of botulism.
His parents Fred and Cindy Warmbier are suing North Korea over their son’s death after they say he was "brutally tortured and murdered."
His father said in a statement: "Otto was taken hostage, kept as a prisoner for political purposes, used as a pawn and singled out for exceptionally harsh and brutal treatment by Kim Jong Un."
Otto Warmbier, a student at the University of Virginia, was traveling in North Korea with a tour group, and was arrested at Pyongyang airport as he was about to leave.
He was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for trying to steal an item bearing a propaganda slogan from his hotel, North Korea state media said.
According to a wrongful death lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, Warmbier falsely confessed to invented charges that he was acting as a spy connected to the Central Intelligence Agency.
The promised closure of North Korea’s Punggye-ri nuclear site follows months of verbal warfare between Trump and Pyongyang.
The US President dubbed Jong-un “Little Rocket Man” and boasted how the nuclear button in Washington “is a much bigger and more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”
Jong-un branded Trump a “dotard”.
The slanging match between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un
Trump on Jong-un
- "North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.” (8 August 2017)
- "The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime." ( Speech to the UN General Assembly , 19 September 2017)
- “Kim Jong Un of North Korea, who is obviously a madman who doesn’t mind starving or killing his people, will be tested like never before!” (22 September 2017)
- "Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me "old," when I would NEVER call him "short and fat?" Oh well, I try so hard to be his friend – and maybe someday that will happen!" (Twitter, 12 November 2017)
- "North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!" (Twitter, 3 January 2018)
Jong-un on Trump
- “After taking office Trump has rendered the world restless through threats and blackmail against all countries in the world. He is unfit to hold the prerogative of supreme command of a country, and he is surely a rogue and a gangster fond of playing with fire, rather than a politician …. Whatever Trump might have expected, he will face results beyond his expectation. I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire.” (Statement in reply to Trump’s UN speech, 22 September 2017)
- “It’s not a mere threat but a reality that I have a nuclear button on the desk in my office … All of the mainland United States is within the range of our nuclear strike.” (New Year address, 31 December 2017)
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the White House will now require Pyongyang to strike a deal taking “irreversible” steps to demonstrate its commitment to denuclearisation.
Pompeo, who was CIA director until last week, held talks with the country recently to pave the way for a meeting between Trump and the North Korean leader.
The envoy told ABC News that Jong-un was “prepared to… lay out a map that would help us achieve” denuclearisation.
His secret meeting with the North Korean leader convinced him there was a “real opportunity” for negotiations with the US President, added the American diplomat.
He described the North Korean leader as “very well prepared” during their negotiations.
Meanwhile, in a separate move designed at boosting cross-border cooperation, Kim pledged to scrap the unique time zone Pyongyang created in 2015.
The North will move its clocks forward 30 minutes to synchronise with the South – nine hours ahead of GMT.
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