A US man detained for nearly half a year in North Korea has landed back home.
A plane carrying Jeffrey Fowle landed Wednesday morning at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, where he had an emotional reunion with his family.
Moments after Fowle stepped off a plane at the base just after 6:30 am, he was met and hugged by his three children, wife and other relatives.
Base Col. John Devillier said Fowle had a teary reunion with his family. He said Fowle was happy and seemed thrilled to be back in the U.S.
Devillier said Fowle’s family hadn’t told the children why they were being brought to the base and that it was a surprise for them to see their father walk off the plane.
The State Department announced Tuesday that the 56-year-old Fowle had been released. The news came about six months after he was taken into custody after leaving a Bible at a nightclub. Christian evangelism is considered a crime in North Korea.
He had been awaiting trial, the only one of three Americans held by Pyongyang who had not been convicted of charges.
The two others were each sentenced to years in North Korean prisons after court trials that lasted no more than 90 minutes. The three Americans entered North Korea separately.
Fowle was flown out of North Korea on a US military jet that was spotted at Pyongyang’s international airport Tuesday. There was no immediate explanation for the release of Fowle, who was whisked to the US territory of Guam before heading back to his wife and three children in Ohio.
State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said on Tuesday that Fowle was seen by doctors and appeared to be in good medical health. She declined to give more details about his release except to thank the government of Sweden, which has an embassy in Pyongyang, for its “tireless efforts.”
Harf would not say whether any American officials had intervened directly with the North Koreans.
Relations between Washington and Pyongyang, never warm, are at a particularly low point, and the US has sought unsuccessfully for months to send a high-level representative to North Korea to negotiate acquittals for all three men.
In Berlin, Secretary of State John Kerry said “there was no quid pro quo” for the release of Fowle.
“We are very concerned about the remaining American citizens who are in North Korea, and we have great hopes that North Korea will see the benefit of releasing them also as soon as possible,” Kerry told reporters.
“We’re in constant touch with their families, we’re working on their release, we’ve talked to the Chinese and others, and we have a high focus on it,” he said.
The United States has no diplomatic relations with North Korea and strongly warns American citizens against traveling to the country.
A report released by the Korean Central News Agency on Wednesday said Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea, took “a special measure” by releasing Fowle, and took “into consideration the repeated requests of US President Barack Obama.”
Fowle arrived there on April 29 and was arrested in May for leaving a Bible at the nightclub. Christian evangelism is considered a crime in North Korea.