SEOUL, U.S President Donald Trump on Thursday welcomed the arrival of three Americans released by North Korea a day earlier in yet another conciliatory gesture ahead of the upcoming summit between the two countries.

Kim Dong-chul, Tony Kim and Kim Hak-song -- all Korean-Americans who were detained on charges of espionage or "hostile acts" against the communist regime -- were set free after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang for the second time in 40 days.

Trump and first lady Melania Trump greeted them at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, in a ceremony that apparently highlighted his administration's major diplomatic coup ahead of the November midterm elections.

Calling them "great, incredible people," Trump congratulated them on their release before his summit with Kim.

"I am honored to have helped three folks," Trump said.

But the true honor is going to be "if we have a victory in getting rid of nuclear weapons," he added, apparently underscoring his resolve to pressure the North into renouncing its nuclear ambitions.

The three expressed their joy, making victory signs with their fingers as they walked down the stairs from the airplane.

"We are very, very happy," one of them told reporters.

Trump voiced his expectation for the upcoming summit with Kim, as well as the future relationship with the North, which had been frozen amid its nuclear saber-rattling.

"We're starting off on a new footing," the president said.

"I really think he wants to do something and bring his country into the real world," he added, obliquely referring to the denuclearization issue that would top the agenda for the summit.

Trump then said, "Some great things can happen."

Source: Yonhap News Agency