U.S. President Donald Trump says negotiations are currently underway for the release of American hostages held in North Korea.
During a joint press conference at Mar-a-Lago with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Wednesday, a reported asked Trump whether the three Americans’ release would be a precondition for sitting down with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“The fact is that they do have three prisoners. We have been talking about them,” Trump replied. “We’re negotiating now. We are doing our very best. As you know, they’ve been there a long time. And it’s harsh treatment.”
Trump, noting the case of Otto Warbier, the American student who died after being released last year by Pyongyang, said his administration was “fighting very diligently” for the safe return of the three captives.
“We fought very hard to get Otto Warmbier back. And when we came back, he was in very, very bad condition. It was a very sad event,” Trump said. “We are likewise fighting very diligently to get the three American citizens back. I think there’s a good chance of doing it. We’re having very good dialogue. We will keep you informed. But we are in there, and we are working very hard on that.”
The three hostages include 64-year-old Kim Dong Chul – who was arrested in 2015 and accused of espionage and spreading christianity before being sentenced to 10 years hard labor – 59-year-old Tony Kim – a professor and aid worker accused of committing hostile acts last April – and 55-year-old Kim Hak Song – who also last year was arrested while working at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology.
Trump has also pledged to push Kim to release several Japanese captives held in North Korea.
According to a senior White House official speaking on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press, CIA Director Mike Pompeo discussed the hostages during his trip to North Korea over Easter weekend.
“The official says Mr. Trump is hopeful they will be released soon,” the report said.
Trump on Wednesday confirmed Pompeo’s meeting with Kim after numerous outlets revealed the clandestine visit.
“Mike Pompeo met with Kim Jong Un in North Korea last week. Meeting went very smoothly and a good relationship was formed,” Trump said on Twitter. “Details of Summit are being worked out now. Denuclearization will be a great thing for World, but also for North Korea!”
Mike Pompeo met with Kim Jong Un in North Korea last week. Meeting went very smoothly and a good relationship was formed. Details of Summit are being worked out now. Denuclearization will be a great thing for World, but also for North Korea!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 18, 2018
The president says the face-to-face with Kim will likely take place in early June, but left room for cancelling if the meeting was “not going to be fruitful.”
“If I think that it’s a meeting that’s not going to be fruitful, I won’t go,” Trump said. “If the meeting when I’m there is not fruitful, I will respectfully leave.”