3 detainees in North Korea released

Spectators listen to a television news broadcast of a statement by North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un before a public television screen outside the central railway station in Pyongyang

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In a goodwill gesture ahead of the summit, North Korea on Wednesday freed three American detainees, allowing them to return home with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. With the DMZ out of the running, Singapore appears the most likely place for the historic meetings to convene as USA officials had previously said the meeting would likely take place at either the DMZ or in Singapore.

Trump said on Twitter that Pompeo was "in the air" and was with "the 3 wonderful gentlemen that everyone is looking so forward to meeting". After Pompeo's 90-minute meeting with Kim Jong Un, he gave reporters a fingers-crossed sign when asked about the prisoners as he returned to his hotel. "Date & Place set", Trump wrote.

"There's also considerable significance in the fact that all three American detainees are of Korean origin", he said.

Around 120,000 people are believed to be imprisoned in North Korea without due process, according to the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK).

"Experts basically believe that these three were basically detained in order to serve as bargaining chips with the USA for North Korea, or even, in the event of a military conflict, human shields", explains NPR's Anthony Kuhl.

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Trump announced the mission Tuesday afternoon as he laid out the case for withdrawing from a landmark nuclear deal with Iran, another bitter US adversary.

Trump and his allies outside the government had sought to fan the heightened expectations ahead of Thursday's official announcement, casting the potential development as evidence of his negotiating prowess ahead of the summit.

The North's official KCNA news agency reported that Clinton had an "exhaustive conversation" over dinner with Kim and passed on a verbal message from then-president Barack Obama. It is planned for late May or early June.

"This decision made by North Korea will be a positive factor for the success of the North Korea-United States summit", said Blue House spokesman Yoon Young-Chan.

The men had boarded Pompeo's plane out of North Korea without assistance and then transferred in Japan to a separate aircraft with more extensive medical facilities.

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United States citizens Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller were released after a secret mission to North Korea by James Clapper, then the Director of National Intelligence.

"Pence says President Donald Trump's "tough minded diplomacy" has led to the release of three Americans detained in North Korea". Pompeo said the summit is scheduled to last one day but could be extended by a day depending on how talks progress.

When the flight arrived Wednesday morning in Pyongyang, North Korean officials were on hand to greet Pompeo. Mr Trump also referred to the North Korean leader as "Little Rocket Man". Previous U.S. efforts to negotiate an end to the North's nuclear weapons program failed under Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush.

The family members of the two educators have said their loved ones are innocent.

Trump has said that withdrawing USA forces from South Korea is "not on the table". North Korea envisions denuclearization as a gradual process that's accompanied by reciprocal measures from the U.S.

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