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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

North Korea Releases 2 American Detainees

by VOA News November 08, 2014

North Korea has freed two jailed Americans who are now on their way back to the United States.

Kenneth Bae and Matthew Todd Miller are flying home in the company of U.S. National Intelligence Director James Clapper, who worked to gain their freedom.

They are expected to arrive McChord Air Force Base in Washington state at 0515 UTC Sunday.

The exact circumstances of why they were released or with whom Clapper met are unclear. The U.S. had repeatedly called on North Korea to free the men on humanitarian grounds.

Bae's mother's reaction

Bae's mother, Myunghee Bae, tells VOA's Korean service that she is speechless. Myunghee Bae said she waited so long for the news, she could not believe it when the State Department contacted her Saturday.

President Barack Obama said the United States is 'very grateful for their safe return.' He said he appreciates Clapper doing a great job on what he described as an obviously challenging mission.

Secretary of State John Kerry called their release a 'humanitarian gesture' and said U.S. officials had been working all the angles to bring Bae and Miller home.

In New York, a spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Ban is relieved the two Americans are free and hopes positive momentum for peace and security on the Korean peninsula will be built on.

The State Department also thanked Sweden, which represents U.S. interests in North Korea, and repeated its warning to U.S. citizens not to travel to the North.

Bae, 46, of Lynnwood, Washington, had been in detention since 2012 for alleged anti-government activities while leading a group of tourists.

Later, Pyongyang sentenced him to 15 years of hard labor for committing 'hostile acts' against the regime, making him the longest-held American in North Korea in recent years. The Korean-American missionary's reported health problems only added to concerns about his captivity.

His family this week appealed again to the North Korean regime to release him. Relatives released a video clip on the website YouTube wishing for Bae's swift return home.

​​Miller, of Bakersfield, California, had been charged with espionage and detained since April. He was taken into custody after tearing up his tourist passport at the Pyongyang airport. He was 24 at the time.

In September, he was tried for 'hostile acts' and sentenced to six years of hard labor.

They were freed less than three weeks after the unexpected release of another U.S. prisoner in North Korea, Jeffrey Fowle.

Fowle was jailed for leaving a Bible in a nightclub.

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