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President Trump welcomes freed detainees

President Trump welcomed three freed detainees back to the U.S. early Thursday. The men, Kim Dong Chul, Kim Hak Song and Tony Kim, had been detained in North Korea.

The Americans -- Kim Dong Chul, Kim Hak-song and Kim Sang Duk, also known as Tony Kim -- were freed Wednesday while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was on a visit to the North Korean capital of Pyongyang to discuss President Trump's upcoming summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

No family members or friends of the three freed Americans were on hand for their arrival in the early hours of Thursday due to protocol reasons, an official said, adding the men had to first debrief intelligence officials before heading to their homes.

Speaking to the media on the tarmac at Joint Base Andrews Air Force Base, Kim Dong Chul said his release felt "like a dream."

"We are very, very happy," said Kim.

Pompeo and the former detainees arrived on two separate planes. Secretary Pompeo touched down first, and the plane carrying the three former detainees arrived about half an hour later at the U.S. military base in suburban Maryland. The plane pulled to a rest in front of a giant U.S. flag, stretched between two cranes on the tarmac. Trump boarded the plane with the first lady and then emerged at the top of the stairs with the three men to wave, and then walk down onto the tarmac together.

Pompeo greeted them at the bottom of the stairs and was hugged by one of the former prisoners. The three men appeared healthy as they walked toward waiting reporters. President Trump made brief remarks, saying "his proudest achievement will be -- this is a part of it -- but my proudest achievement will be when we denuclearize" North Korea.

While the three men are walking on their own strength and appear healthy, they were transported immediately to the military's Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington for thorough health checks.

"The current priority is to allow the returnees decompression time as they transition. Decompression consists of establishing their routine, providing them with rest, and attending to their nutritional and medical needs," the Walter Reed hospital said in statement released Thursday. "We want them to be able to process and integrate their experiences in a healthy manner and this will be facilitated by trained professionals."

In a statement ahead of their return, the three freed men thanked the U.S. government, Trump and the American people "for bringing us home."

"We thank God, and all our families and friends who prayed for us and for our return. God Bless America, the greatest nation in the world," the three men said in a statement released by the State Department.

Pompeo accompanied the men as he capped his 12-and-a-half hour trip to Pyongyang, which included a 90-minute visit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

North Korea released the prisoners as Pompeo visited the country to nail down the details of a looming meeting between Kim Jong Un and President Trump. U.S. officials are now planning for the summit to happen in Singapore, sources said on Wednesday.

The White House has lauded the Kim regime for releasing the three men, saying it helped to create a positive atmosphere for the upcoming summit.

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