North Korea Returns Remains of US Troops

Communist dictator Kim Jong-un promised U.S. President Donald Trump that North Korea would endeavor to return as many remains as possible of Americans killed in Korea during the war during their first-ever summit in Singapore on June 12.

The US military cargo plane landed around 0200 GMT at the Osan Air Base, where American soldiers were seen lining up for a ceremony. -North Korea military search teams conducted 33 recovery operations that collected 229 sets of American remains.

"Details of what specifically the USA had picked up were unclear, but reports said previously that Pyongyang would return about 55 sets of remains from the 1950-53 Korean War".

A soldier carries a casket containing a remain of a USA soldier who was killed in the Korean War during a ceremony at Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, July 27, 2018. Hundreds of US service members as well as a military honor guard lined up on the tarmac to mark the return of the fallen soldiers.

The New York Times notes that forensic analysts with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency will spend months, or even years, trying to identify them, noting that in the past individual sets of returned remains have been found to contain bones from several bodies.

In 1990, for example, North Korea agreed to turn over a set of five remains, along with clothing and identification tags.

The transfer of the remains has coincided with the 65th anniversary of the 1953 armistice agreement that ended fighting, although North and South Korea are technically still at war because a peace treaty was never signed.

The United States does not possess any known North Korean remains to return, however, as the war was fought in Korea.

The transfer of remains represents one of the first tangible results of Trump's June 12 summit meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Officials have bristled, however, at criticism from the US that it seeks to profit from the repatriations by demanding excessive fees for handling and transporting the remains. Kim committed to work toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and promised to return the remains of USA troops, starting with those already recovered and identified.

He said: "After so many years, this will be a great moment for so many families".

The UN Security Council has unanimously boosted sanctions on North Korea since 2006 in a bid to choke off funding for Pyongyang's nuclear and ballistic missile programs, banning luxury goods said to include recreational sports equipment. The remains will reportedly be picked up at the North's Kalma Airport and then moved to Osan Air Base south of Seoul, where a ceremony is planned, according to sources cited by Yonhap. North Korea lashed out at the administration's "gangster-like" demands following a visit by Pompeo to Pyongyang earlier this month. However, he did not respond when asked by Senator Bob Menendez whether Pyongyang agreed with the USA definition of denuclearisation, except to say he was fully confident North Korea understood this.

"The United States owes a profound debt of gratitude to those American service members who gave their lives in service to their country and we are working diligently to bring them home", the White House said.

During a meeting with lawmakers on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said China is "an important partner to work with on the Korean issue", hinting that China could be involved with the efforts to officially end the Korean War. North Korean veterans of the war, which left more than 1.2 million dead, will gather in Pyongyang for a conference. Of them, some 7,700 remain unaccounted for, including 5,300 believed to have died in the North.

North Korea has held out the return of remains as a symbol of its goodwill and intention to improve ties with Washington.

"As we have stated before, we are committed to building a peace mechanism with the goal of replacing the Armistice agreement when North Korea has denuclearized", the spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

  • Rogelio Becker