Their North Korean prison ordeal over, two American detainees are back home – freed after the surprise intervention of the top US intelligence official.
Kenneth Bae followed by Matthew Miller descended from a plane to be welcomed by relatives at a Washington State military base.
US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper accompanied them, having travelled to Pyongyang to secure their release from hard labour.
This as President Barack Obama visits China for talks set to include its reclusive ally’s nuclear programme.
Bae thanked President Obama and the North Korean government for his freedom.
“It’s been an amazing two years, I learned a lot, I grew a lot, lost a lot of weight – in a good way – but I’m standing strong because of you and thank you for being there in such time as this,” he told reporters.
When asked about his health, Bae, 46, said he was still recovering. His family had expressed concern about his health during his detention, saying he had diabetes, an enlarged heart, deteriorating vision and back and leg pains.
“I just want to say thank you to all for supporting me and lifting me up and not forgetting me. At the same time, I’m not forgetting the people of North Korea. And thanks for supporting my family as well.”
A missionary, Bae was arrested in November 2012 and sentenced to 15 years for crimes against the state.
North Korea said Miller, in his mid-20s, had torn up his tourist visa, demanding Pyongyang grant him asylum. Reportedly tried for espionage, he had been in custody since April and was serving six years.
The United States had frequently called for the men to be freed for humanitarian reasons.