US army helicopter pilot Bobby Hall was finally released by North Korea on Friday.
His release ended a 13-day crisis that threatened to plunge relations between Washington and Pyongyang back to Cold War levels.
Hall, captured after his helicopter went down over North Korea on December 17th, was set free after the US publicly expressed regret for the incident.
It was US State Department diplomat Thomas Hubbard who engineered Hall's release after two long days of negotiations.
The talks were extremely delicate because Washington did not want to undermine an important nuclear accord signed with Pyongyang in October.
Hubbard crossed over the famous DMZ a few minutes before Hall.
Hall's release came a day after North Korea released a handwritten statement purportedly from the pilot, asking forgiveness for "a flagrant violation of international law".
It wasn't known whether Hall wrote and signed the statement as Pyongyang claimed.
The US maintained Hall had strayed into North Korean territory accidentally and offered Pyongyang an apology for the incident.
Hall, 28, looked a bit tired as he crossed the border but seemed to be in good health, with no visible injuries.
The pilot was wearing the same flight suit as when his chopper was shot down in North Korea on December 17th.
After the handover was completed, Hubbard said he was glad the North Koreans took the humanitarian side of US requests to release the American flyer.
"Let me just say for now that I was extremely pleased to see Bobby Hall walk across the DMZ a few minutes ago. This is a moment of great happiness for the American people. I've just spoken to President Clinton on the telephone who is as pleased as all of us are that Bobby Hall has been returned safely. I just had two rather difficult days in Pyongyang working out this issue. I'm pleased to see in the final analysis the North Korean government took our humanitarian considerations into account, they agreed to return Chief Warrant Officer Hall to us."
SUPER CAPTION: Thomas Hubbard - US State Department
Warrant Officer Hall was flown by helicopter to the US military hospital in Seoul for a checkup and debriefing.
With his 13-day ordeal now over, Hall could be back in Florida as early as Friday afternoon.