World News

North Korea Will Transfer American Remains in Coming Weeks, Official Says

Posted July 17, 2018 6:31 p.m. EDT

SEOUL, South Korea — The United States expects to transfer the remains of some American servicemen out of North Korea in the coming weeks, bringing them home 65 years after the end of the Korean War, a U.S. military official said Tuesday.

U.S. and North Korean officials met on the border between North and South Korea on Monday in an effort to coordinate the repatriation of remains believed to be those of American soldiers killed during the 1950-53 war.

They have yet to sort out details such as the exact date and the number of remains to be shipped out of North Korea, said the U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the matter. The repatriation is expected to take place by the end of the month or the beginning of next month, the official said Tuesday.

In his meeting with President Donald Trump in Singapore on June 12, the North’s leader, Kim Jong Un, committed to returning the remains of American troops recovered from major Korean War battle sites in his country, including the “immediate repatriation of those already identified.”

U.S. officials have since said that North Korea indicated that it had 200-250 sets of remains ready to be shipped out.

But the process has been slow.

Sunday, the two nations held their first general-officers’ meeting in nine years. In that meeting, which took place at Panmunjom, a village on the inter-Korean border, they reconfirmed the North’s commitment to the repatriation. They also said the North agreed to resume searches at major battle sites to recover more remains from the estimated 5,300 Americans who never returned home.

In the meeting with Trump in Singapore, Kim promised to work toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. But their governments have yet to agree upon a detailed road map toward denuclearization.

Washington considers the return of the remains an important goodwill gesture.

A repatriation would represent the first homecoming from North Korea since the work of U.S. military experts and North Korean workers from 1996-2005. They recovered remains believed to have been those of more than 220 American soldiers.

Remains recovered from North Korea would be transferred to the Hawaii-based Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, where painstaking forensic work would be carried out to identify them.

July 27 is the 65th anniversary of the signing of the armistice that halted the Korean War.