Kenneth Bae and Matthew Todd Miller have been allowed to leave North Korea “and are on their way home,” the U.S. government announced Saturday, leaving no more Americans detained in the reclusive East Asian nation.
The pair were released after a rare trip by a top American official — U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper — to Pyongyang as an envoy of President Barack Obama, a senior State Department official told CNN. The official said that there was no “quid pro quo” for the men’s release.
In a statement Saturday, Clapper’s office said the U.S. government is facilitating the two men’s return home, though it was not immediately clear when they would arrive back in the United States.
“We welcome (North Korea’s decision to release both Mr. Bae and Mr. Miller,” the office said. “We want to thank our international partners, especially … the government of Sweden, for their tireless efforts to help secure their release.”
The U.S. State Department issued its own statement, saying, “We join their families and friends in welcoming them home.”
The Americans’ departure from North Korea comes less than a month after North Korea released Jeffrey Fowle, an Ohio man who spent five months in detention. North Korean authorities took Fowle into custody after he allegedly left a Bible at a club for foreign sailors.
Bae had been held since late 2012, and in April 2013 was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for “hostile acts” against the North Korean government.
The Lynwood, Washington, resident operated a China-based company specializing in tours of North Korea, according to family members, who have described him as a devout Christian.
Earlier this year, Bae — who was transferred to a hospital last year — told a Swedish diplomat that he was worried about his health.
Miller had been detained since April. According to the state-run Korean Central News Agency, he was convicted in September of committing “acts hostile” to North Korea and sentenced to six years of hard labor.