Canadian Pastor freed by North Korea

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement that he was "pleased and relieved" to confirm Lim's release, adding that Lim would "soon be reunited with his family and friends in Canada".

Lim, a 62-year-old South Korean-born Canadian citizen, was convicted and sentenced in 2015 on charges of trying to use religion to destroy the North Korean system and helping USA and South Korean authorities lure and abduct North Korean citizens. The North Koreans set Hyeon Soo Lim free on what they called "sick bail"; he is reportedly on his way home on a Canadian government plane.

Lim, who had visited North Korea dozens of times since 1997, was serving a life sentence of hard labour after he was arrested and convicted in 2015 of "crimes against the state".

The seriousness of Pastor Lim's situation became even more clear after the death of USA student Otto Warmbier earlier this year, after his release from North Korean imprisonment.

It's not known what persuaded the North Koreans to do the decent thing in this case and allow Lim to return home to Canada. "In particular, I want to thank Sweden, our protecting power in North Korea, for assisting us", Trudeau said.

Canada does not have diplomatic offices in Pyongyang and relies on Sweden to handle consular issues.

"So far, it has been confirmed that government officials and a doctor are accompanying Reverend Lim", said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to media.

There was no clear connection between the release of Hyeon Soo Lim and the heightened rhetoric between Washington and Pyongyang.

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Twenty-three personnel were quickly saved, but three marines remained missing despite an air and sea search. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis "to offer Australia's support in any way that can be of assistance".

"This week, a Canadian government delegation led by Daniel Jean, my Special Envoy, traveled to Pyongyang, North Korea, to discuss Pastor Lim's case".

The church has taken on numerous humanitarian projects in North Korea, one of which prompted Lim's last trip there in January 2015.

At least three Americans and six South Koreans remain in custody in the North.

We "ask that the world does not forget the people of North Korea".

However, it's not just North Koreans who appear to be making preparations in the wake of escalating tensions and nuclear war threats between the two countries.

Lim, who has a wife and son living in the Toronto area, started the Light Korean Presbyterian Church almost three decades ago, shortly after he emigrated from South Korea.

"If North Korea uses an intercontinental ballistic missile, from launch to impact (in Hawaii) is approximately 20 minutes", Lt. Col. Charles Anthony, director of public affairs for the state's Department of Defense, told CNN.

The provision of humanitarian goods is exempted from the SEMA sanctions that were in addition to sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council and implemented in Canadian law. Under the SEMA sanctions, Canadian individuals and companies are banned from trading with North Korea and making new investments there, as well as providing financial services to North Korea and North Korean nationals.