North Korea releases American detainees

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PYONGYANG, North Korea – North Korea has released two American detainees.

Kenneth Bae and Matthew Todd Miller were allowed to leave the country Saturday, just weeks after another American detainee, Jeffrey Fowle, was released.

“I didn’t realize I was getting released until about a half hour before we took off. It was, it hit like a ton of bricks,” Fowle said.

They were the last known Americans being detained by the Communist nation.

Bae and Miller’s release follows a rare diplomatic trip by U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

“I think that it’s a wonderful day for them and their families. And I appreciate Director Clapper doing a great job on what was obviously a challenging mission,” said President Obama.

North Korea initiated the trip, contacting the U.S. government and urging them to send a cabinet-level official to the country to discuss the detainees.

Clapper’s office says the U.S. government is facilitating the men’s return home, but it’s not clear when exactly they will arrive on American soil.

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson believes the move is a sign that Kim Jong Un may be changing tactics in dealing with the United States.

“Decisions like this are made at the highest level. And if it was without any conditions, as it appears to be, he’s signaling to the U.S., ‘Hey, maybe we should start talking,’ and that’s good,” Richardson said.

Bae had been held in North Korea since 2012.

In 2013, he was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for “hostile acts” against the North Korean government.

Miller had been detained since April.

He was also convicted of “hostile acts” and sentenced to six years hard labor.