North Korea on Friday returned the remains of the US troops killed during the Korean War 65 years ago, giving a new momentum to the diplomatic relations between Washington and Pyongyang that had shown signs of stalling in recent weeks.
A US Air Force plane carrying the remains of an unknown number of US soldiers who died during the 1950-53 war arrived in Osan Air Base in South Korea from North Korea, the White House said.
The repatriation followed an agreement reached between North Korea leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump in Singapore on June 12.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said a formal repatriation ceremony will be held on August 1.
Trump thanked the Korean leader for the action taken. “After so many years, this will be a great moment for so many families. Thank you to Kim Jong Un,” the US president tweeted.
“Today, the chairman is fulfilling part of the commitment he made to the president to return our fallen American service members. We are encouraged by North Korea’s actions and the momentum for positive change,” she said.
The move, Sanders said, represents a significant first step to resume field operations in North Korea to search for the estimated 5,300 Americans who have not yet returned home.
As per media reports, about 7,700 US soldiers are listed as missing from the Korean war, and 5,300 of the remains are believed to still be in North Korea. The war killed millions, including 36,000 American soldiers.
Between 1996 and 2005, joint US-North Korea military search teams conducted 33 recovery operations that collected 229 sets of American remains.
The last time North Korea turned over remains was in 2007, when Bill Richardson, a former UN ambassador and New Mexico governor, secured the return of six sets, according to a media report.