In a surprising turn of events, it appears as though the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un has given into one of President Donald Trump’s demands and is preparing to release three U.S. citizens detained for years at a North Korea labor camp.
“We heard it through our sources in North Korea late last month,” said activist Choi Sung-ryong to the Financial Times. “We believe that Mr. Trump can take them back on the day of the US-North Korea summit or he can send an envoy to take them back to the US before the summit.”
According to the Financial Times, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke about the release of the detainees in their secret meeting last month.
“We are in there, and we are working very hard on that,” said Trump last month about his team’s efforts to secure their release.
This week, Trump then alluded to their upcoming release.
“As everybody is aware, 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!” tweeted Trump.
The three U.S. citizens– Kim Dong-chul, Kim Sang-duk, and Kim Hak-song – were released from the labor camp and are being held at a hotel outside of Pyongyang, according to North Korea’s state-run news outlet.
But they won’t be returning unscathed.
“Detainees face deplorable conditions, sexual coercion and abuse, beatings and torture by guards, and forced labor in dangerous and sometimes deadly conditions,” according to a 2016 report by the Human Rights Watch.
South Korea’s media is reporting that the U.S. prisoners are being instructed to claim they did not experience any human rights abuse while they were detained.
Although getting the U.S. citizens released has been an objective for Trump, his ultimate goal has been to sign a denuclearization deal with North Korea.
National Security Adviser John R. Bolton has said that the Trump administration should take the “Libyan model” with North Korea in order to come to a deal in a quick manner.
“One former official close to the administration said that under the “Libyan model” approach, Mr. Trump won’t need a large team for long, drawn-out negotiations with North Korea. Rather, he will need a technical team that can be ready to go into North Korea quickly to verify that the nuclear program is being shut down and that weapons are being turned over,” writes The Washington Times. “The difference this time compared with failed negotiations with North Korea in 2009 is that Mr. Trump — with Mr. Bolton at his back — is likely to demand immediate action from Mr. Kim, said a former U.S. official directly involved in past negotiations with North Korea.”
Democratic lawmakers like Rep. Gerald E. Connolly have been quick to say that the president isn’t prepared for the upcoming meeting with Kim.
With that in mind, the administration is beefing up its team to back Trump up in the nuclear talks.
“Mr. Bolton began building the team when he brought on as his deputy Mira Ricardel, a former defense adviser to the Trump campaign who served in the Pentagon under Mr. Bush. Other key players are NSC Director for Asian Affairs Matthew Pottinger and NSC Director for Korea Allison Hooker,” writes The Washington Times. “Mr. Pottinger is a former journalist and U.S. Marine who joined the administration roughly a year ago. Ms. Hooker is respected on both sides of the political aisle for her expertise on North Korea.”
The former Treasury Department sanctions specialist Anthony Ruggiero, who has taken a strict stance about applying pressure to Pyongyang, has also been hired.
North and South Korea met last week and announced that the countries were committed to building a cordial, less hostile relationship and to denuclearize the Korea Peninsula.
Not everyone is so convinced by North Korea’s new friendly deposition.
“The North Koreans have a tendency to do this when they’re under pressure. They come to the table, they make promises, and then they break those promises,” said Former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice on Fox and Friends.
Author’s note: As usual, we should be skeptical about whatever North Korea does. This could be merely a move on Kim’s part to appear like he is doing the U.S. a favor. But we can’t forget that these U.S. citizens were abused and tortured in labor camps after being arrested just last year. We did not expect this though and it’s still a win for the Trump administration