If North Korean leader Kim Jong Un can change his actions from those of his father and grandfather, he can change his country's future, Vice President Mike Pence said early Thursday morning.
"We all understand the record of the Kim regime," Pence told ABC News' Jonathan Karl, during an interview at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, where three freed American hostages landed on American soil in the early morning hours.
"If he will change, different from his father, different from his grandfather, if he will set his nation on a different path, that there's a bright future available for the people of North Korea," Pence told Karl.
"We’re seeing hopeful signs from Kim Jong Un that he is prepared to embrace completedenuclearization -- that's his words," Pence added.
Pence said seeing the former hostages, Kim Dong Chul, Kim Hak Song and Kim Sang Duk, also known as Tony Kim, "come out on the platform with President Trump and the first lady, to see the joy on their faces, and to be able to greet them on the tarmac was really one of the greatest joys of my life."
The former prisoners have been taken to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington for evaluation and treatment, said Pence, but appear to be in good health.
The men returned to the United States with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo after their release in North Korea on Wednesday, and were greeted upon their return by President Donald Trump, Pence, their wives, and several administration officials.
Their return is a "direct result" of Trump's leadership on the world stage, said Pence.
"Sending these three Americans home before any concessions have been offered, I think is a testament to the president's policy of peace through strength -- strong, clear, American leadership with our allies at the table has brought us this far, and we hope it opens the way to a lasting peace," said Pence.
One of the three hostages had been sentenced to hard labor, which Pence called "heartbreaking."
"In fact, the secretary of state said when [the plane] refueled in Anchorage, one of the detainees asked to go outside the plane because he hadn't seen daylight in a very long time," said Pence. "As they came down the stairs, the joy on their faces, their appreciation for the people of the United States for their countrymen, for the president and, frankly, their gratitude to God was deeply moving. The first words that they said to us were 'we thank you and thank you for your prayers.'"
Pence also discussed Pompeo's second trip to North Korea, explaining that "what you're seeing is diplomacy, but diplomacy that has followed the United States of America speaking truth, that we'll no longer tolerate the path that North Korea has been on in regards to nuclear missiles."
The vice president also talked about Trump's decision to remove the United States from the Iran nuclear deal, after Karl asked him if the Trump administration is ready for war if Iran restarts its nuclear program.
"The United States of America will not permit Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon," said Pence. "I think it's absolutely imperative, and it's clear that we cannot permit Iran to ever obtain a nuclear weapon. But let me be clear on this point -- we hope for better."
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