North Korea Returns Remains Of 55 Americans, White House Says

April FrancisJul 27, 2018

The repatriation of the remains missing in the 1950-53 conflict is seen as a modest diplomatic coup for U.S. President Donald Trump as it was one of the agreements reached during his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore aimed primarily at securing the denuclearisation of the North.

The United Nations Command (UNC) in South Korea said 55 sets of remains were on board the plane. From 1996 to 2005, 229 additional caskets were found and transferred.

According to United States officials, North Korea is estimated to have as many as 200 sets of remains ready for delivery.

While North and South Korea have discussed deals to end the war, and the United States nominally has given its imprimatur to the idea, USA officials say that there is little interest in the Trump Administration to actually do this, with some seeing it as undermining their leverage against North Korea on denuclearization.

The remains are expected to stay at the air base for several days until a repatriation ceremony on August 1. 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.

Also on the plane were technical experts from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.

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Washington's reluctance to declare an end to the Korean War until after North Korea abandons its nuclear arsenal may put it at odds not only with Pyongyang, but also with allies in South Korea. But thousands of us troops killed in major battles in North Korea have not been returned because the war was never formally concluded with a peace treaty and because North Korea and the United States lack diplomatic ties. The remains are expected to be taken to Hawaii for identification. 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.

But since then the Pentagon's efforts to bring the war dead home have been overshadowed by tensions over the North's nuclear weapons program.

Trump and Kim appeared at ease with one another during the summit. He also boasted that North Korea's nuclear crisis had been "largely solved".

The pledge to transfer war remains was seen as a goodwill gesture by Kim at the June summit and, while it has taken longer than some US officials had hoped, the handover will rekindle hopes for progress in nuclear talks. The return of the soldiers' remains and the demolition of missile test sites were concessions made by North Korea as it moves toward denuclearization.

While many are expecting that to take place in the morning, there's been no official announcement from the USA, the North or UN Command. The North also said USA officials came up with various "conditions and excuses" to backtrack on the issue of formally ending the war.

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