The White House said on Thursday it would welcome the release of three Americans imprisoned in North Korea as a goodwill gesture before a planned summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, but that it could not confirm reports that they are about to be freed.
Expectations have grown that North Korea would soon release the three ahead of the unprecedented summit in the coming weeks.
Rudy Giuliani, a member of Trump’s legal team, told Fox News Channel that Pyongyang would release them as early as Thursday.
It was not immediately clear whether Giuliani had direct knowledge of negotiations around the issue.
CNN, citing an unnamed source, said on Thursday the prisoners’ release was imminent, adding the groundwork for the move was laid two months ago when North Korea’s foreign minister traveled to Sweden and proposed the idea.
“We can’t confirm the validity of any of the reports currently out about their release, but we certainly would see this as a sign of goodwill if North Korea were to release the three Americans ahead of discussions between President Trump and Kim Jong Un,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters.
The three are Korean-American missionary Kim Dong Chul; Kim Sang-duk, who spent a month teaching at the foreign-funded Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST) before he was arrested in 2017, and Kim Hak Song, who also taught at PUST.
Trump did not mention Korea or the prisoners when he spoke at a prayer event at the White House on Thursday. “Our country is doing very well. You’ll see some very good announcements very shortly,” he said.
On Wednesday, Trump said on Twitter, “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!”
The U.S. government is looking into reports that the Americans had recently been relocated from a labor camp to a hotel near Pyongyang, a U.S. official said on Wednesday.
The summit between Trump and Kim is expected to take place in late May or early June.
In preparing for the summit, Trump’s administration has said it wants North Korea’s “complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization” but has offered few details of the strategy it will employ at the talks.
Kim told the Chinese government’s top diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi, on Thursday that he is committed to denuclearization, China’s foreign ministry said, as diplomatic efforts to bring lasting peace to the Korean peninsula gather pace.
“Kim Jong Un said achieving the denuclearization of the peninsula is the firm position of the North Korean side,” China’s foreign ministry said after Wang met Kim in Pyongyang.
North Korea announced on Sunday that it would close its main nuclear test site next month but some U.S. officials are skeptical that Pyongyang will give up its nuclear arsenal.
Trump has promised to ensure that North Korea does not get the capability to build a nuclear bomb that can hit the mainland United States.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is postponing his plans to travel to Brazil this month in order to ensure foreign policy resources are focused on Trump’s talks with Kim, Pence’s spokeswoman said.
The exact date and location has yet to be fixed for the meeting between Trump and Kim, who lobbed personal insults and lambasted each other last year over North Korea’s nuclear arms ambitions.
The change in tone has been helped by last week’s meeting between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, at which the two pledged to work for “complete denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula. Trump said he would maintain pressure on Pyongyang through sanctions ahead of his own meeting with Kim.
Even as Washington presses for the release of the three American prisoners, the parents of a U.S. college student who died last year soon after being release from captivity in North Korea have sued Pyongyang over their son’s death, saying Otto Warmbier was “brutally tortured and murdered.”
Reporting by Makini Brice and Jeff Mason; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing, Christine Kim and Jane Chung in Seoul and David Stanway in Shanghai; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Frances Kerry
5.0 earthquake strikes Ridgecrest, California — two months after 7.1
Two months after the 7.1 earthquakes that hit outside of Los Angeles, another more modest quake was detected, ABC-7 reported.
While the location of the quake was about 20 miles north of Ridgecrest, California, at the Naval Air Warfare Center China Lake. People as far away as Clark County, Nevada also felt the rumble Thursday afternoon.
It left several people asking if it was considered a foreshock or a really late aftershock from two months ago.
92% of HPV-caused cancers could be prevented by vaccine: health authority
An estimated 92% of cancers caused by HPV could be prevented through vaccination, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Thursday, adding that boosting immunization coverage was a key priority.
Human papillomavirus was responsible for an estimated yearly average of 34,800 cancer cases between 2012 and 2016, according to a new study published by the CDC, meaning that more than 32,100 cases could have been avoided annually.
The virus can lead to cancers in both men and women, including cancers of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, anus, and oropharynx (the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils).
New poll shows Republicans may get wiped out — in Mitch McConnell’s home state of Kentucky
This year, Republicans may be heading for a rough election in an unlikely state: Kentucky.
New internal Democratic polls reveal that the GOP is struggling in three critical Kentucky races taking place in November. In the gubernatorial race, incumbent GOP Gov. Matt Bevin is trailing Democratic Attorney General Steve Beshear 48 to 39.
Further down the ballot, the GOP is also vulnerable. In the attorney general race to replace Beshear, former Democratic state House Speaker Greg Stumbo is ahead 46 to 39 against Republican Daniel Cameron, the former legal counsel to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. And in the secretary of state race, where incumbent Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes is retiring, Democratic former Second Lady of Kentucky and Miss America 2000 pageant winner Heather French Henry leads GOP former Justice Department lawyer Michael Adams 52 to 37.