Three American prisoners freed by North Korea arrive back in the US

Donald Trump has said he will meet the men in Washington

Three American prisoners freed by North Korea arrive back in the US

A US government plane holding the three Americans detained in North Korea sits on the tarmac at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport waiting to be refueled Wednesday, May 9th, 2018 in Anchorage, Alaska | Image: Mark Thiessen/AP/Press Association Images

Three Americans freed after being jailed in North Korea have thanked US President Donald Trump for "bringing us home".

They have now arrived in Alaska, before flying to Washington to meet President Trump.

In a statement the men said: "We would like to express our deep appreciation to the United States government, President Trump, Secretary (of State) Pompeo, and the people of the United States for bringing us home.

"We thank God, and all our families and friends who prayed for us and for our return. God Bless America, the greatest nation in the world."

Their release comes after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un held talks with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who visited Pyongyang ahead of the planned summit between Donald Trump and Mr Kim.

In this file photo, people watch a TV news report on screen, showing portraits of three Americans - Kim Dong Chul (left) Tony Kim and Kim Hak Song (right) - detained in North Korea | Image: Ahn Young-joon/AP/Press Association Images

The president said he would meet the three released prisoners when they land in the US on Thursday morning.

He tweeted: "I am pleased to inform you that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in the air and on his way back from North Korea with the 3 wonderful gentlemen that everyone is looking so forward to meeting.

"They seem to be in good health. Also, good meeting with Kim Jong Un. Date & Place set."

Mr Trump added: "Secretary Pompeo and his 'guests' will be landing at Andrews Air Force Base at 2:00 A.M. in the morning. I will be there to greet them. Very exciting!"

The prisoners - Kim Dong Chul, Kim Hak Song and Tony Kim - were accused by North Korea of anti-state activities.

All three appeared to be in good health and were able to walk without help, the White House said.

Kim Dong Chul, a South Korea-born pastor, was arrested in 2015 and accused of spying.

A year later, he was sentenced to 10 years' hard labour.

The two other men were working at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, founded by evangelical Christians from overseas, when they were arrested last year and accused of "hostile acts".

Tony Kim's family said in a statement they were "very grateful" that he and the other prisoners had been released.

Until now, the only American to have been freed from North Korea during the Trump presidency is Otto Warmbier, who returned to the US in a coma and died. He had been captive for 17 months.

Mr Pompeo had earlier said "it would be a great gesture" if the men were freed and Mr Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, said it would be "an opportunity" for the North to "demonstrate their authenticity".

Mike Pompeo was in the country to finalise details of the meeting between Mr Trump and Mr Kim, but details of the location and timing of the summit have not yet been made public.

On Wednesday, Mr Pompeo met Kim Yong Chol, vice chairman of the central committee of North Korea's ruling party, for lunch.

The pair discussed the possible agenda for the meeting between their leaders.

It was Mr Pompeo's second trip to North Korea - he visited at Easter before he was officially appointed as America's top diplomat.

The release of the prisoners is the latest move in a thaw in relations between the North Korea and the West that has seen Kim Jong Un promise to give up his nuclear programme.

The leaders of North and South Korea recently held their first meeting in more than a decade, with the men joining hands as they stepped across their joint border.

As the details are filled in for his face-to-face with Donald Trump, Mr Kim visited China on Monday and Tuesday.

He told Chinese President Xi Jinping that his country is committed to denuclearisation if a "relevant party" drops "hostile threats".