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Americans freed by NKorea arrive home

The last two Americans serving lengthy prison sentences in North Korea have arrived home after the reclusive state freed them following a secret mission by US intelligence chief James Clapper.


Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller arrived around 9pm at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State.

The men disembarked the US government plane with luggage, then embraced family and friends on the tarmac.

They arrived with heads shaved. Bae wore khakis and a dark shirt, while Miller wore dark pants, a jacket and grey shirt.

The men disembarked the US government plane with luggage, then embraced family and friends on the tarmac.

North Korea’s surprise release of Bae and Miller followed the equally unexpected decision by Pyongyang last month to free 56-year-old US national Jeffrey Fowle.

Earlier in the day President Barack Obama hailed the latest releases as “wonderful,” as State Department officials said there had been no “quid pro quo” deal with North Korea to secure Bae and Miller’s freedom.

“The Department of State welcomes the release of US citizens Kenneth Bae and Matthew Todd Miller from the DPRK, where they have been held for two years and seven months, respectively,” a statement said, using the official acronym by which the North is known.

US Director of National Intelligence Clapper travelled to North Korea and “engaged on behalf of the United States in discussions with DPRK authorities about the release of two citizens,” the statement said.

A senior administration official said Clapper carried a “brief message” from Obama to North Korean Leader Kim Jong-Un indicating he was his personal envoy to bring the Americans home.

Obama, speaking just hours before leaving for a swing through Asia, praised Clapper’s role in the “challenging” mission.

“I think it is a wonderful day for them and their families and obviously we are very grateful for their safe return,” he said.

Former basketball great Dennis Rodman, who has talked up his cozy relationship with Kim, claimed his trips to the country had triggered Bae’s release.

“I understand the crimes (Bae) committed, and ask you my dear friend, the highly respected Marshall Kim Jong-Un for his release to show my country how loving and compassionate you and the DPRK can be,” Rodman wrote in a letter to the leader in January released by celebrity website TMZ.

Bae, a Korean-American missionary, earlier this week marked the two-year anniversary of his detention.

The sickly 46-year-old was arrested in November 2012 and later sentenced to 15 years’ hard labour.

Bae’s sister Terri Chung expressed joy at her brother’s release.

“We have been waiting for and praying for this day for two years. This ordeal has been excruciating for the family, but we are filled with joy right now,” she said in a statement.

“He will not have to spend another day at a labour camp. He can now recover from this imprisonment and look forward to his wife, kids and rest of his life.

“Our Thanksgiving celebration this year will be one we will never forget.”

Miller, 24, had been sentenced to six years’ hard labour by the North Korean Supreme Court following his arrest in April, after he allegedly ripped up his visa at immigration and demanded asylum.