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US thanks Kim for returning war remains
August 03, 2018
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SEOUL: US President Donald Trump said on Thursday he looked forward to meeting Kim Jong Un soon and thanked the North Korean leader for sending the suspected remains of US soldiers killed in the 1950-1953 Korean War back to the United States.

“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,” Trump wrote in a Twitter message.

“Also, thank you for your nice letter - I look forward to seeing you soon!,” Trump said, without elaborating.

The pledge to return the remains of US soldiers was made during a landmark summit between Trump and Kim in June in Singapore, where North Korea committed to work towards the complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

Kim sent a letter to Trump in mid-July in which the North Korean leader said he hoped there would be a second meeting between the two but it was unclear if that was the “nice letter” to which Trump referred on Thursday.

Trump also took to Twitter earlier to praise an “incredibly beautiful ceremony” in Hawaii, where Vice President Mike Pence helped welcome the remains to the United States.

The United States said during a solemn ceremony on Wednesday the human remains presumably included Americans killed in the Korean War and thanked North Korea for making good on its pledge to hand them over.

The pledge to transfer war remains was seen as a goodwill gesture by Kim at the Singapore summit and was the most concrete agreement reached by the two sides so far.

“I know that President Trump is grateful that Chairman Kim has kept his word, and we see today this tangible progress in our efforts to achieve peace on the Korean peninsula,” said Pence, whose father fought in the Korean War.

More than 7,700 US troops remain unaccounted for from the Korea War. About 5,300 were lost in what is now North Korea.

Other countries under the command of the United Nations also lost troops that are still unaccounted for, including the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada.

Experts say positively identifying the decades-old remains could take anywhere from days to decades.

Still, an initial field forensic review indicated the “remains are what North Korea said they were,” John Byrd, director of analysis for the US Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, told reporters at an air base in South Korea before the remains were flown to Hawaii.

Former DPAA official Jeong Yang-seung, who previously worked on identifying US remains from the North, said it was unusual to locate dog tags during the search and recovery process.

“It’s once in a blue moon that dog tags are recovered,” Jeong, now professor of forensic anthropology at the Middle Tennessee State University, said.

“I don’t think North Korea is refusing to give dog tags when it has more but it probably doesn’t have dog tags lying around,” he said.

“So when... only one dog tag was provided, it’s probably not to tease the US but rather that it was sent because it could offer clues to the remains.”

DNA analysis, skeletal studies of bones, dental records as well as details of where the remains were found play a key role in such investigations, he said.

“It’s a very thorough process with many, many procedures so it takes a long time,” he said.

“If it’s identified quickly, it would be around five to six months, but if not, it could take decades.” More than 35,000 Americans were killed on the Korean Peninsula during the war and around 7,700 of them are still considered missing, including 5,300 in North Korea alone.

Agencies

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