US President Donald Trump hinted Wednesday that there would be imminent news about three Americans detained in North Korea, after sources said they had been relocated ahead of their possible release.
The development comes as Trump is preparing for a historic summit meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“The past Administration has long been asking for three hostages to be released from a North Korean Labor camp, but to no avail. Stay tuned!” Trump wrote on Twitter.
The United States has been demanding the North free Kim Hak-song, Kim Sang-duk and Kim Dong-chul and reports have said the two sides were close to reaching a deal on their release.
“They are staying in a hotel on the outskirts of Pyongyang,” Choi Sung-ryong, a South Korean activist with contacts in the North told AFP earlier, adding the three were being kept separately but “going on tours, receiving medical treatment and eating good food.”
Diplomatic sources in Pyongyang have said there were rumors that the three had been relocated, but there had been no confirmation of their exact whereabouts.
The release of the three men was discussed when US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo travelled to Pyongyang last month, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Kim Dong-chul, a South Korea-born American pastor, has been detained in the North since 2015 when he was arrested for spying. He was sentenced to 10 years’ hard labor in 2016.
Kim Hak-song and Kim Sang-duk — or Tony Kim — 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.”