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Reports: North Korea may be preparing to release three US citizens it has been holding prisoner

PANMUNJOM, SOUTH KOREA - APRIL 27: North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un leaves the Peace House after the Inter-Korean Summit and dinner on April 27, 2018 in Panmunjom, South Korea. According to reports, Kim is preparing to release three American citizens that his country has been holding prisoner. (Photo by Korea Summit Press Pool/Getty Images)

According to reports, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is preparing to release three U.S. citizens that his country has been holding prisoner for years. If confirmed, this could be in reaction to President Donald Trump's calls for the country to prove that it actually wants a peace deal.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly discussed the plight of North Korean prisoners when he secretly met with Kim Jong Un in April, before his confirmation by the Senate.

The State Department would not confirm or deny these reports. A spokesperson for the department told TheBlaze:

"We cannot confirm the validity of these reports. The welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad is one of the highest priorities of the Department of State. We are working to see U.S. citizens who are detained in North Korea come home as soon as possible."

What do we know so far?

One thing is certain: Kim Dong Chul. Kim Hak-song, and Kim Sang-duk are American citizens who have been held prisoner by the North Korean regime for years. Kim Dong Chul is an American pastor who was born in South Korea and has been detained in North Korea since 2015. He was sentenced to 10 years hard labor. The other two prisoners were detained on suspicion that they were perpetrating "hostile acts" while they worked at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, a school which is run by an American Christian and funded by Christian charities.

The Financial Times and Agence France-Presse both cite South Korean activist Choi Sung Ryong as their source for this information. Choi in turn heard the information from sources inside North Korea. Choi told The Financial Times:

"We heard it through our sources in North Korea late last month. We believe that Mr Trump can take them back on the day of the US-North Korea summit or he can send an envoy to take them back to the US before the summit."

Choi elaborated to AFP that the three Americans were "going on tours, receiving medical treatment and eating good food."

CNN reported on March 18 that representatives from Sweden were working to negotiate with North Korea for the release of these same three prisoners, on behalf of the United States. These talks took place while North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho was in Stockholm in March, and when North Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Han Song Ryo visited Sweden in January

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