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North Korea releases detained American citizens

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U.S. citizen Matthew Todd Miller sits in a witness box during his trial at the North Korean Supreme Court in this undated photo

U.S. citizen Matthew Todd Miller sits in a witness box during his trial at the North Korean Supreme Court in this undated photo

REUTERS

Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American Christian missionary who has been detained in North Korea for more than a year, appears before a limited number of media outlets in Pyongyang in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on January 20, 2014. Reuters/KCNA

Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American Christian missionary who has been detained in North Korea for more than a year, appears before a limited number of media outlets in Pyongyang in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on January 20, 2014. Reuters/KCNA

REUTERS

Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American Christian missionary who has been detained in North Korea for more than a year, appears before a limited number of media outlets in Pyongyang in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on January 20, 2014. U.S. missionary Bae said on Monday he wants to return to his family as soon as possible and hopes the United States will help, Japan's Kyodo news agency reported. REUTERS/KCNA (NORTH KOREA - Tags: CRIME LAW POLITICS RELIGION) ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA

Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American Christian missionary who has been detained in North Korea for more than a year, appears before a limited number of media outlets in Pyongyang in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on January 20, 2014. U.S. missionary Bae said on Monday he wants to return to his family as soon as possible and hopes the United States will help, Japan's Kyodo news agency reported. REUTERS/KCNA (NORTH KOREA - Tags: CRIME LAW POLITICS RELIGION) ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA

REUTERS

Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American Christian missionary who has been detained in North Korea for more than a year, meets a limited number of media outlets in Pyongyang, in this photo taken by Kyodo January 20, 2014. U.S. missionary Kenneth Bae, imprisoned in reclusive North Korea for more than a year, said on Monday he wants to return to his family as soon as possible and hopes the United States will help, Japan's Kyodo news agency reported. Mandatory credit   REUTERS/Kyodo (NORTH KOREA - Tags: POLITICS) 
ATTENTION EDITORS - FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN

Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American Christian missionary who has been detained in North Korea for more than a year, meets a limited number of media outlets in Pyongyang, in this photo taken by Kyodo January 20, 2014. U.S. missionary Kenneth Bae, imprisoned in reclusive North Korea for more than a year, said on Monday he wants to return to his family as soon as possible and hopes the United States will help, Japan's Kyodo news agency reported. Mandatory credit REUTERS/Kyodo (NORTH KOREA - Tags: POLITICS) ATTENTION EDITORS - FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN

REUTERS

Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American Christian missionary who has been detained in North Korea for more than a year, appears before a limited number of media outlets in Pyongyang. Reuters/Kyodo

Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American Christian missionary who has been detained in North Korea for more than a year, appears before a limited number of media outlets in Pyongyang. Reuters/Kyodo

REUTERS

Kenneth Bae was tried in North Korea's Supreme Court on charges of plotting to overthrow the government (AP)

Kenneth Bae was tried in North Korea's Supreme Court on charges of plotting to overthrow the government (AP)

AP

U.S. citizen Matthew Todd Miller (2nd R) sits in a witness box during his trial at the North Korean Supreme Court in Pyongyang September 14, 2014, in this photo released by Kyodo. North Korea sentenced Miller to six years hard labour for committing "hostile acts" as a tourist to the country, a statement carried by state media said on Sunday. Miller, from Bakersfield, California, and in his mid-20s, entered North Korea in April this year whereupon he tore up his tourist visa and demanded Pyongyang grant him asylum, according to a release from state media at the time. Mandatory credit.   REUTERS/Kyodo

U.S. citizen Matthew Todd Miller (2nd R) sits in a witness box during his trial at the North Korean Supreme Court in Pyongyang September 14, 2014, in this photo released by Kyodo. North Korea sentenced Miller to six years hard labour for committing "hostile acts" as a tourist to the country, a statement carried by state media said on Sunday. Miller, from Bakersfield, California, and in his mid-20s, entered North Korea in April this year whereupon he tore up his tourist visa and demanded Pyongyang grant him asylum, according to a release from state media at the time. Mandatory credit. REUTERS/Kyodo

REUTERS

Personal possessions of U.S. citizen Matthew Todd Miller, including his passport and a ripped North Korean visa, are shown during his trial at the North Korean Supreme Court in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 14, 2014. North Korea sentenced Todd Miller to six years hard labour for committing "hostile acts" as a tourist to the isolated country, a statement carried by state media said on Sunday. Miller, from Bakersfield, California, and in his mid-20s, entered North Korea in April this year whereupon he tore up his tourist visa and demanded Pyongyang grant him asylum, according to a release from state media at the time.  REUTERS/KCNA

Personal possessions of U.S. citizen Matthew Todd Miller, including his passport and a ripped North Korean visa, are shown during his trial at the North Korean Supreme Court in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 14, 2014. North Korea sentenced Todd Miller to six years hard labour for committing "hostile acts" as a tourist to the isolated country, a statement carried by state media said on Sunday. Miller, from Bakersfield, California, and in his mid-20s, entered North Korea in April this year whereupon he tore up his tourist visa and demanded Pyongyang grant him asylum, according to a release from state media at the time. REUTERS/KCNA

REUTERS

U.S. citizen Matthew Todd Miller (4th R)  stands in a witness box during his trial at the North Korean Supreme Court in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 14, 2014. North Korea sentenced Todd Miller to six years hard labour for committing "hostile acts" as a tourist to the isolated country, a statement carried by state media said on Sunday. Miller, from Bakersfield, California, and in his mid-20s, entered North Korea in April this year whereupon he tore up his tourist visa and demanded Pyongyang grant him asylum, according to a release from state media at the time.  REUTERS/KCNA

U.S. citizen Matthew Todd Miller (4th R) stands in a witness box during his trial at the North Korean Supreme Court in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 14, 2014. North Korea sentenced Todd Miller to six years hard labour for committing "hostile acts" as a tourist to the isolated country, a statement carried by state media said on Sunday. Miller, from Bakersfield, California, and in his mid-20s, entered North Korea in April this year whereupon he tore up his tourist visa and demanded Pyongyang grant him asylum, according to a release from state media at the time. REUTERS/KCNA

REUTERS

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U.S. citizen Matthew Todd Miller sits in a witness box during his trial at the North Korean Supreme Court in this undated photo

Two American citizens are on their way home from North Korea after their release from prison there, US intelligence officials said.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper is accompanying Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller on their journey back to the US, a spokesman for Mr Clapper said.

Mr Bae and Mr Miller were the last Americans held by North Korea following the release last month of Jeffrey Fowle.

Mr Miller, who is from California, was serving a six-year jail term on charges of espionage after he allegedly ripped his tourist visa at Pyongyang's airport in April and demanded asylum.

Mr Bae, who is from Washington state, is a Korean-American missionary with health problems. He was serving a 15-year sentence for alleged anti-government activities.

North Korea said Mr Miller had wanted to experience prison life so that he could secretly investigate the country's human rights situation.

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U.S. citizen Matthew Todd Miller (2nd R) sits in a witness box during his trial at the North Korean Supreme Court in Pyongyang September 14, 2014, in this photo released by Kyodo. North Korea sentenced Miller to six years hard labour for committing "hostile acts" as a tourist to the country, a statement carried by state media said on Sunday. Miller, from Bakersfield, California, and in his mid-20s, entered North Korea in April this year whereupon he tore up his tourist visa and demanded Pyongyang grant him asylum, according to a release from state media at the time. Mandatory credit.   REUTERS/Kyodo

U.S. citizen Matthew Todd Miller (2nd R) sits in a witness box during his trial at the North Korean Supreme Court in Pyongyang September 14, 2014, in this photo released by Kyodo. North Korea sentenced Miller to six years hard labour for committing "hostile acts" as a tourist to the country, a statement carried by state media said on Sunday. Miller, from Bakersfield, California, and in his mid-20s, entered North Korea in April this year whereupon he tore up his tourist visa and demanded Pyongyang grant him asylum, according to a release from state media at the time. Mandatory credit. REUTERS/Kyodo

REUTERS

U.S. citizen Matthew Todd Miller (2nd R) sits in a witness box during his trial at the North Korean Supreme Court in Pyongyang September 14, 2014, in this photo released by Kyodo. North Korea sentenced Miller to six years hard labour for committing "hostile acts" as a tourist to the country, a statement carried by state media said on Sunday. Miller, from Bakersfield, California, and in his mid-20s, entered North Korea in April this year whereupon he tore up his tourist visa and demanded Pyongyang grant him asylum, according to a release from state media at the time. Mandatory credit. REUTERS/Kyodo

Mr Bae was detained in 2012 while leading a tour group to a North Korea economic zone.

Mr Fowle had been detained after leaving a Bible in a nightclub in the hope that it would reach the country's underground Christian community.

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U.S. citizen Matthew Todd Miller sits in a witness box during his trial at the North Korean Supreme Court in this undated photo

U.S. citizen Matthew Todd Miller sits in a witness box during his trial at the North Korean Supreme Court in this undated photo

REUTERS

U.S. citizen Matthew Todd Miller sits in a witness box during his trial at the North Korean Supreme Court in this undated photo

The announcement about Mr Bae and Mr Miller came one day before US president Barack Obama travels to Asia for a three-country visit.

The development does not mean a change in US posture regarding North Korea's disputed nuclear programme, and the North must still show it is serious and ready to abide by commitments towards de-nuclearisation and improved human rights, said a senior Obama administration official.

The official said there was no quid pro quo involved in the Americans' release.

The US notified allies of Mr Clapper's trip to North Korea and alerted members of the congressional leadership once his visit was under way, the official said.

Mr Obama said he was "very grateful" for their release, adding that it was "a wonderful day" for Mr Bae and Mr Miller and their families.

The president also praised Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who travelled to North Korea to take the Americans home. 

PA Media