Trudeau confirms release of ailing Canadian pastor imprisoned in North Korea

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OTTAWA | The pastor, a canadian imprisoned for over two and a half years in North Korea and released Wednesday, is en route to Canada, said Thursday the Prime minister Justin Trudeau.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's office confirmed the visit and North Korean media said Trudeau's national security adviser, Daniel Jean, had arrived in Pyongyang on Tuesday.

Hyeon Soon Lim, the senior pastor at Light Presbyterian Church in Malton, has been conducting humanitarian work in "the Hermit Kingdom" for years until around 2015, when he was arrested and charged with attempts to overthrow the regime of Kim Jong Un and sentenced to life imprisonment at a North Korean labour camp.

"Pastor Lim's health and well-being remain of the utmost importance to the Government of Canada, and we are working to ensure he receives any required medical attention", Trudeau said in the statement.

Pak also thanked Canadian officials who "worked behind the scenes with North Korean authorities" to secure his release, as well as Swedish diplomats who assisted them.

North Korea's official KCNA news agency announced Hyeon Soo Lim's release Wednesday, saying he was freed on "sick bail".

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"The Government of Canada was actively engaged on Mr. Lim's case at all levels", said Trudeau.

Lim's release came almost two months after USA college student Otto Warmbier died shortly after he was released from North Korea in a coma.

Jean's mission to Pyongyang was an exceptional step given the state of diplomatic relations between Canada and North Korea, and the escalating tensions between the North and the United States.

Lim's family had become more concerned for his welfare since the death in June of American student Otto Warmbier, who had been held in North Korea for 17 months. "The standing committee collectively acknowledged the need for a stringent state of security in the region due to Pyongyang's recent continual provocations, and urged North Korea to immediately stop taking actions that are raising tensions".

Another politician who had campaigned for his release, Senator Yonah Martin said, 'I had a great sense of relief but it took me by surprise only because it had been so long'.

"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.