After months of anticipation and drama, the release of three American detainees by North Korea played out amid high-stakes diplomacy and was only sealed about an hour before the US secretary of state was wheels-up from Pyongyang. Their release followed talks between Pompeo and Kim about the forthcoming summit, and Trump is expected to welcome them home when they land overnight at Andrews air force base outside Washington.
"It is clear to me that we can not prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb under the decaying and rotten structure of the current agreement", Trump said from the White House Diplomatic Room.
Trump said on Twitter that Pompeo was returning with "the 3 wonderful gentlemen that everyone is looking so forward to meeting". "They seem to be in good health", he wrote.
After meeting leader Kim Jong Un, Pompeo had given a fingers-crossed sign when asked if there was good news.
Vice President Mike Pence said in a statement Wednesday that the three Americans are coming home "thanks to President Trump's tough-minded diplomacy".
"I appreciate Kim Jong Un for doing this", he said. "Take away credentials?" he tweeted first thing on Wednesday morning as the disclosures on Cohen erupted in the media, sandwiched between Trump's torpedoing of the Iran nuclear deal and the North Korea prisoner release, which again bumped it from the headlines.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is greeted by senior North Korean official Kim Yong Chul, director of the United Front Department, which is responsible for North-South Korea affairs (left), and Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong, on his arrival in Pyongyang, North Korea, Wednesday, May 9, 2018. Why would the USA withdraw its 28,500 troops?
The President struck an optimistic tone about the prospects of achieving a deal, but made clear that "everything could be scuttled" - a point he has repeatedly underscored as he looks to temper expectations about the prospects of brokering a deal. Regardless of how it goes, Kim could use the summit as evidence that his regime is strong and stable enough to bring the USA president to the table. It is planned for late May or early June.
The White House says President Donald Trump views North Korea's release of three American citizens "as a positive gesture of goodwill".
"While our administration is encouraged that North Korea freed these innocent hostages, we will not let off the pressure until we achieve full denuclearization", Pence said.
The president said the meeting will last at least one day, possibly two.
USA citizens Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller were released after a secret mission to North Korea by James Clapper, then the Director of National Intelligence.
Minutes later, Pompeo arrived in Japan to refuel before flying on to Pyongyang. According to South Korea, Kim says he's willing to give up his nukes if the United States commits to a formal end to the Korean War and pledges not to attack the North.
Kim was quoted by China's official news agency Xinhua as saying on Monday, "I hope to build mutual trust with the US through dialogue".
But his exact demands for relinquishing weapons that his nation spent decades building remain unclear. He served on the U.S. National Security Council during the presidency of George W. Bush.