The last two Americans being held captive by North Korea returned home last night. Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller landed at a Washington state military base after their departure was secured through a secret mission by James Clapper, director of national intelligence. Bae, surrounded by family members, spoke briefly after the plane carrying him and Miller landed about 9pm. "I just want to say thank you all for supporting me and standing by me," he said. He thanked President Obama, the many people who supported him, and the North Korean government for releasing him. "It's been an amazing two years, I learned a lot, I grew a lot, I lost a lot of weight," said Bae, a Korean-American missionary with health problems. Asked how he was feeling, he said: "I'm recovering at this time."
Miller of Bakersfield, Calif., and Bae of Lynnwood, Wash., flew back with Clapper, the highest-ranking American to visit Pyongyang in more than a decade. "Obviously we are very grateful for their safe return," President Obama said yesterday. Clapper spent roughly a day on the ground and met with North Korean security officials—but not Kim, a senior Obama administration official said. The US had considered sending someone from outside government to retrieve the detainees, but suggested Clapper after the North Koreans indicated that they would release the detainees if the US sent a high-level official from Obama's administration. Analysts said the decision to free Bae and Miller now probably was a bid to ease pressure over North Korea's human rights record. "To us, North Korea seems like a strange place," said Bae's sister, Terri Chung. "Don't allow that to make that a reason to forget the people of that country."