Trump, Pence celebrate return of prisoners from North Korea

President Trump bid “WELCOME HOME” to the three American citizens released by North Korea as Vice President Pence said meeting the trio early Thursday morning as they returned to the United States was “one of the greatest joys of my life.”

“On behalf of the American people, WELCOME HOME!,” the president wrote on Twitter.

The posting included a video showing Trump arriving at Joint Base Andrews on Marine One and greeting the three men on the plane with First Lady Melania Trump and then waving to a crowd of reporters, service members and well-wishers.

A large American flag hung from two fire trucks on the tarmac as floodlights lit the scene.

The plane carrying Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who escorted the men back to the United States from Pyongyang, landed at the air base outside Washington at about 2:50 a.m.

Speaking to ABC news after the release of the three – Kim Sang-duk, Kim Dong-chul and Kim Hak-song – Pence said Trump deserves the credit for their freedom.

“I think it is a direct result of President Trump’s leadership on the world stage,” Pence told ABC News. “Sending these three Americans home before any concessions have been offered I think is a testament to the president’s policy of peace through strength – strong, clear, American leadership with our allies at the table has brought us this far, and we hope it opens the way to a lasting peace.”

The release of the trio who were held for more than a year removes a hurdle in the upcoming summit between Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, which is expected to happen in Singapore later this month or early June.

Pence expressed optimism that Kim would be open in the talks, while remaining skeptical of the reclusive regime’s leader.

“We’re seeing hopeful signs from Kim Jong Un that he is prepared to embrace complete denuclearization — that’s his words,” he said.

Pressed whether Kim can be trusted, Pence said, “We all understand the record of the Kim regime.”

“If he will change, different from his father, different from his grandfather, if he will set his nation on a different path, that there’s a bright future available for the people of North Korea,” Pence continued.

He also lauded Pompeo, who has traveled to North Korea twice in six weeks, for his diplomatic breakthrough.

“What you’re seeing is diplomacy, but diplomacy that has followed the United States of America speaking truth,” he said. “That we’ll no longer tolerate the path that North Korea has been on in regards to nuclear missiles.”

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