Remains of US soldiers killed in North Korea repatriated to Hawaii

Trump thanks North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and ‘looks forward to seeing him soon’

A military aircraft carrying the remains of soldiers killed in the 1950-53 Korean War arrived Osan air base on Friday (July 27) in South Korea.


Fifty-five cases containing the remains of presumed US soldiers killed in the 1950-53 Korean War were returned home on Wednesday and will now be analysed for identification.

The cases were received by US vice-president Mike Pence at the Pearl Harbor-Hickam joint base in Hawaii, and he thanked the North Koreans for returning the remains.

Repatriation of remains was one of the outcomes of the June summit in Singapore involving North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US president Donald Trump and was hailed as a goodwill gesture.

After the repatriation Mr Trump said he looked forward to meeting Mr Kim again soon.

“Thank you to Chairman Kim Jong Un for keeping your word & starting the process of sending home the remains of our great and beloved missing fallen! I am not at all surprised that you took this kind action,” Mr Trump wrote on Twitter. “Also, thank you for your nice letter – I look forward to seeing you soon!”, he said, without elaborating.

There has been criticism of the slow pace of implementing the core element of the June summit – dismantling North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme. There were also concerns this week after US spy satellites reportedly detected activity at a North Korean factory producing missiles.

Mr Pence described the repatriation as “tangible progress” in efforts to denuclearise the Korean Peninsula.

‘Forgotten war’

“Some have called the Korean War the ‘forgotten war.’ But today, we prove these heroes were never forgotten. Today, our boys are coming home,” Mr Pence said in a speech at the ceremony. Mr Pence’s father fought in the war.

“Our work will not be complete until all our fallen heroes are accounted for and home. We will see to it in the days ahead that these heroes will be the heroes who led the way to many more homecomings in the future,” he said.

More than 7,700 troops are still unaccounted for from the Korean War, and the US military reckons that the remains of some 5,300 American soldiers have yet to be recovered from North Korea.

The remains contained only one identification “dog tag” showing the size of the task facing US military experts trying to identify the bodies, which could take days in some cases but years in others.

John Byrd, director of analysis for the US Defence POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), told reporters that the family of the soldier identified by the dog tag had been notified, but it was unclear if that soldier’s remains were among those received from North Korea.

The North Koreans had given specifics about where the remains had been found, which allowed experts to match them to battles fought between 1950 and 1951.

There have been several efforts to repatriate remains before. Between 1996 and 2005, the US and North Korea conducted joint searches but they were halted after Pyongyang intensified its nuclear programme. – Additional reporting agencies