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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on May 11)

2018/05/11 07:02

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Release of detainees

: Prospects for U.S.-N. Korea summit looking up

Three U.S. nationals who were detained in North Korea were released in advance of a summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who visited Pyongyang again Wednesday to discuss summit plans, brought three Korean-Americans, Kim Dong-chul, Kim Hak-song and Tony Kim, back to the U.S. to be greeted by President Trump and first lady Melania at Andrews Air Force Base. The three prisoners had been jailed for committing "anti-state activities."

   President Trump thanked the North Korean leader before a Cabinet meeting, saying "I appreciate Kim Jong-un for doing this and allowing them to go." The release is seen as a gesture by North Korea for creating a positive mood ahead of the first-ever U.S.-North Korea summit. Trump has tweeted that Pompeo had a good meeting with Kim and the time and place for the summit have been set.

The release clears some of the concerns that had surrounded the summit owing to mounting pressure from the U.S. on North Korea's disarmament, in addition to other sensitive topics such as the country's human rights issues. Amid reports of last-minute tension in preparations, Kim was seen visiting Xi Jinping for a second summit following their last meeting in late March to coordinate their positions on key issues such as denuclearization.

The entire world is relieved to see the three detainees released in good health after the death of American student Otto Warmbier who died soon after returning home in June 2017 from imprisonment in North Korea.

Through diplomacy, Kim has been trying to normalize his country to the world. The release of prisoners is a good step for North Korea in gaining the trust of the international community. Denuclearization is without a doubt the key issue for the Trump-Kim summit, but Pyongyang should continue to do its part to enhance its human rights situation in line with international standards as well. In this regard, we urge Pyongyang to also release six South Koreans detained in the North. President Moon Jae-in brought up the issue during his April 27 Panmunjeom meeting with Kim. This will certainly increase the reconciliatory mood created by the Panmunjeom Declaration aimed at officially ending the Korean War and establishing permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Following the positive mood created by the release of the detainees, Trump and Kim should prepare to meet halfway in their negotiations for denuclearization and other issues on the table.

(END)

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